James Hart Wyld

1912–1953, born in New York, N.Y.

Wyld’s enthusiasm for space travel began in the 1930s when he read Conquest of Space, a pioneering book by American Rocket Society founding member David Lasser. Wyld, a mechanical engineer, soon joined the society.

A key problem rocket pioneers faced was the self-destruction of liquid-fuel rocket motors due to the intense heat they produced. Many of the early pioneers had thought of cooling the engine by circulating one of the propellants in a jacket around it, a method called regenerative cooling. Wyld became the first in the United States to build a successful regeneratively cooled liquid-fuel engine. 

James Wyld with one of his rocket motors at an ARS test in Midvale, New Jersey, 1941. He later helped to design the engine for the Bell X-1.

This second version of James Wyld’s motor spurred the creation of Reaction Motors, Inc., shortly after Pearl Harbor in December 1941.