Frederick Durant was a key advisor to the U.S. military, intelligence, and civilian space-flight programs of the 1950s and '60s. He served as president of the American Rocket Society in 1953 and president of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) from 1953 to 1956. During the 1950s he worked for several different aerospace organizations, including: Bell Aircraft Corp., Everett Research Lab, the Naval Air Rocket Test Station, and the Maynard Ordnance Test Station. He later became assistant director of astronautics for the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., helping to launch the modern facility millions of visitors tour each year. While at the Smithsonian, he was tapped to serve as the aerospace historian for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Born in Ardmore, Pa., in 1916, Durant graduated from Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pa., in 1939 with a degree in chemical engineering. He soon took a job with E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. With the outbreak of World War II, Durant enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was assigned to a pilot training program. After an in-air accident, he spent the duration of the war as an instructor teaching naval airmen the intricacies of flying from and landing on aircraft carriers. When his enlistment ended, he went to work for Bell Aircraft as a test pilot on the new line of jet aircraft that was being hastily developed. In 1951, during the Korean War, he returned to the service as a Navy test pilot.

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Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

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