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Re: Rocket Science

Posted by Jim on January 29, 2002 at

In Reply to: Rocket Science posted by Hannah Hoag on January 24, 2002

: When did the phrase "It's not rocket science" come into use? Who decided the rocket scientists were the smartest of the bunch? Other information?

I'm surprised no one has responded to your query. I found numerous hits on "Google", but none that defined when the phrase became popular. Difficult to accept the web has failed, but I guess a research trip to the library is in order. I have listed some sites that limit how old the phrase may be based on the development of rocket technology. Rocket science became more important to the American public with the launch of the Russian Sputnik on October 4th, 1957. American rockets of the same era experienced limited success. As a result of these early failures, rocket science was perceived as a challenging endeavor. Also, the field was dominated by expatriate Germans and everyone knows how smart they are. Other fields of study, quantum physics, for instance -- arguably more challenging then rocket technology -- never entered the mainstream as a tough thing to do. Another phrase "It doesn't take an Einstein to figure that out" is similar in meaning and probably comes from the same time period. Other forum participants with handier reference materials may be able to narrow the search.

Some background:
75 YEARS AGO, MARCH 16, 1926, Robert H. Goddard, a 44-year-old professor at Clark University, fired a small rocket into the air, thereby forming the foundation for modern U.S. rocket science.
http://www.humanevents.org/articles/03-05-01/chronicles.html

Robert H. Goddard: American Rocket Pioneer
http://pao.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/service/gallery/fact_sheets/general/goddard/goddard.htm