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Wed, 10.02.1935

Robert Lawrence, Chemist, and Astronaut born

Robert Lawrence

Robert H. Lawrence, a Black astronaut, was born on this date in 1935.

He was born in Chicago and graduated from Englewood High School. He earned a B. S. in chemistry from Bradley University in 1956 and completed a doctorate in physical chemistry at Ohio State University.

He joined the Air Force and was assigned to Furstenfeldbruck AFB near Munich, Germany where he trained pilots in the German Air Force. It was thereafter a fatal accident that he recommended changing the language of instruction from English to German.

He made this suggestion because flying at incredible speeds left little time for pilots to translate information from the language in which it had been delivered to their native language. Reasoning that if they were instructed in their native language, reactions would be more automatic, permitting responses that were more rapid and perhaps avoid tragedy.

Lawrence became America's first Black astronaut when he was selected by the Air Force for space flight training in 1966. He and his wife, Barbara Cress Lawrence, have one son, Tracey.

He died in a plane crash on December 8, 1967, at Edwards Air Force Base in California before the start of his space mission.  Robert H. Lawrence School in Chicago's Jeffrey Manor neighborhood is named in his memory.

John F. Kennedy
Space Center
Kennedy Space Center,
FL 32899

To become a Pilot


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