BY WILLIAM R. SEARS *
HANS JOACHIM PABST VON OHAIN, inventor of the first turbojet aircraft engine that powered an aircraft, died on March 13, 1998. The first flight of his He S 3B engine was made in Marienehe, Germany, on August 27, 1939. After World War II he came to the United States as a “Paperclip” scientist to work in the Aerospace Research Laboratory (ARL) and the Air Force Aerospace Propulsion Laboratory (AFAPL). In both organizations he rose to the position of chief scientist. After retirement from the U. S. Air Force in 1979, he continued with independent developments. Von Ohain had the unique opportunity to observe the development of his original invention over almost sixty years, and to work in research on the many innovations for the turbojet engine for more than forty of those years. He is credited with fifty German patents and more than twenty U. S. patents.
Von Ohain was born into an aristocratic family that recognized early that their son’s talent was in science rather than military service. He was educated at the prestigious Georg August University at Göttingen, completing the seven-year course of study for a doctorate in physics in only four years. His instructors included Ludwig Prandtl, Albert Betz, Walter Encke, Richard Courant, Robert Wichard Pohl, and Theodore von Kármán.