James L. Johnson receives NASA fellowship for study of “Rockets and the Red Scare: Frank Malina and American Rocketry, 1936-1946

NASA Fellowship in the History of Space Technology


The NASA Fellowship in the History of Space Technology, offered by SHOT and supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) History Division, funds either a predoctoral or postdoctoral fellow for up to one academic year to undertake a research project related to the history of space technology. The fellowship supports advanced research related to all aspects of space history, leading to publications on the history of space technology broadly considered, including cultural and intellectual history, institutional history, economic history, history of law and public policy, and history of engineering and management. The 2010 NASA Fellowship was awarded to James L. Johnson. The citation:

The awards committee for the 2010-2011 NASA Fellowship is pleased to announce that the fellowship for the academic year will go to James L. Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Program in the History of Science and Technology at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. Johnson is completing his dissertation under the direction of Miriam Levin on “Rockets and the Red Scare: Frank Malina and American Rocketry, 1936-1946.” This study promises to make a significant contribution to the historiography of rocketry in the United States by focusing attention on the work of Frank Malina and a group of important rocketeers at Caltech during the 1930s and 1940s. This project is especially pathbreaking because it reflects significant issues in post-World War II America and the origins of the cold war. Like many intellectuals, Malina flirted with Marxist ideology in the interwar years and this led to his being forced out of high-technology military programs. He also, as Johnson makes clear, showed a strong entrepreneurial bent and appreciation for the creative potential of relatively open research environments that went against trends in American industry, academe, and the military after 1947. Thus, Malina’s career offers an opportunity for Johnson to elucidate the degree to which individuals were aware that they were not only changing technology but also the very structures through which American scientific research was being conducted—not to mention the ramifications those structural changes may have held for shifting control of research and development decisions away from practitioners during a crucial period in the rise of the United States as a world power.


For a recent post by Johnson see