Fred Singer

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Fred Singer : biography

September 27, 1924 –

1953: University of Maryland

Singer moved back to the United States in 1953, where he took up an associate professorship in physics at the University of Maryland, and at the same time served as the director of the Center for Atmospheric and Space Physics. Scheuering writes that his work involved conducting experiments on rockets and satellites, remote sensing, radiation belts, the magnetosphere, and meteorites. He developed a new method of launching rockets into space: firing them from a high-flying plane, both with and without a pilot. The Navy adopted the idea and Singer supervised the project. He received a White House Special Commendation from President Eisenhower in 1954 for his work.

He became one of 12 board members of the American Astronautical Society, an organization formed in 1954 to represent the country’s 300 leading scientists and engineers in the area of guided missiles—he was one of seven members of the board to resign in December 1956 after a series of disputes about the direction and control of the group.Schumach, Murray. , The New York Times, December 3, 1956.

In November 1957 Singer and other scientists at the university successfully designed and fired three new "Oriole" rockets off the Virginia Capes. The rockets weighed less than and could be built for around $2000. Fired from a converted Navy LSM, they could reach an altitude of and had a complete telemetry system to send back information on cosmic, ultraviolet and X-rays. Singer said that the firings placed "the exploration of outer space with high altitude rockets on the same basis, cost-wise and effort-wise, as low atmosphere measurements with weather balloons. From now on, we can fire thousands of these rockets all over the world with very little cost.""Maryland U. Fires Three New Rockets," The Washington Post, November 8, 1957.

In February 1958, when he was head of the cosmic ray group of the University of Maryland’s physics department, he was congratulated in a telegram to the president of the university from President Eisenhower for his work in satellite research."President Lauds Physicist Singer," The Washington Post, February 4, 1958. In April 1958, he was appointed as a consultant to the House Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration, which was preparing to hold hearings on President Eisenhower’s proposal for a new agency to handle space research, and a month later received the Ohio State University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award."Singer Appointed Space Consultant," The Washington Post, April 6, 1958.

  • "Md. U. Physicist Receives Award," The Washington Post, May 3, 1958: the reward was for his "widely recognized research contributions in the fields of cosmic rays, upper atmosphere and space flight, and for the recognition he has brought to university and government research organizations through his outstanding and prolific work." He became a full professor at Maryland in 1959, and was chosen that year by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of the country’s ten outstanding young men., Science & Environmental Policy Project, accessed May 13, 2010; Smithsonian Institution Research Information Service. , accessed May 15, 2010.
  • For his Junior Chamber of Commerce award, see The New York Times. , January 5, 1960; and , United States Junior Chamber, accessed May 22, 2010.

In a January 1960 presentation to the American Physical Society, Singer sketched out his vision of what the environment around the earth might consist of, extending up to into space.Osmundsen, John A. , The New York Times, January 30, 1960. He became known for his early predictions about the properties of the electrical particles trapped around the earth, which were partly verified by later discoveries in satellite experiments. In December 1960, he suggested the existence of a shell of visible dust particles around the earth some 600 to in space, beyond which there was a layer of smaller particles, a micrometre or less in diameter, extending 2,000 to .Plumb, Robert K. , The New York Times, December 28, 1960. In March 1961 Singer and another University of Maryland physicist, E. J. Opik, were given a $97,000 grant by NASA to conduct a three-year study of interplanetary gas and dust."M.U. Professors get NASA grants," Associated Press, March 22, 1961.