Dryden, pictured here in 1958, was hugely influential in the formation of NASA.
From the early days of NASA there are many names that elicit great admiration, from Armstrong to von Braun. But perhaps none is as underappreciated as that of Hugh L. Dryden who, unbeknownst to many, quietly and steadfastly dictated the rise of NASA up until his last days and ensured that the agency would have a sound footing to stand on.
Hugh Latimer Dryden was born on 2 July 1898 in Maryland, USA where he spent the majority of his youth, moving from Pocomoke City to Baltimore during the financial crisis of 1907 when his father lost his job. From an early age it was apparent that Dryden was gifted; he excelled at mathematics and graduated from high school at the age of just 14. By the age of 22, he held a Ph.D. in physics and mathematics and was the director of the Aerodynamics Division at the National Bureau of Standards.
His aptitude with mathematics and aerodynamics saw him become a member of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the precursor agency to NASA, in 1939, and ten years later he was NACA’s director. During ...