Robert Forward

Robert L. Forward, Ph.D., died of brain cancer Sept. 21, 2002, in Clinton, at the age of 70.

He and his wife, Martha, had lived in Anacortes and on South Whidbey Island for the past 10 years.

Mr. Forward had an internationally known, multifaceted career as a combination physicist, aerospace engineer, popular science writer, lecturer and science fiction novelist.

In addition to over 200 papers and articles and 28 patents, Forward published 11 “hard” science fiction novels — where the science is as accurate as possible, consistent with telling a good story. His first novel, “Dragon’s Egg” (1980), about fast-living creatures existing on the surface of a neutron star, is still in print as a Del Rey Classic. It was followed by “Starquake” (1985). His second major fiction publication was the “Rocheworld” series, consisting of “Rocheworld” (1983) plus the sequels, “Return to Rocheworld” (1993), “Ocean Under the Ice” (1994), “Marooned on Eden” (1993) and “Rescued from Paradise” (1995), with his wife or daughter as co-author on the sequels. His science fiction writing career concluded with the solo novels “Martian Rainbow” (1992), “Timemaster” (1992), “Camelot 30K” (1993), “Indistinguishable from Magic” (1995) and “Saturn Rukh” (1997).

In 1956 he was hired by Hughes Aircraft Co. as part of the company’s graduate research fellowship program. For his doctoral thesis in physics he built and operated the world’s first bar antenna for the detection of gravitational radiation. The antenna is now in the Smithsonian museum. Mr. Forward worked at Hughes Aircraft’s corporate research laboratories in Malibu, Calif., for 31 years in positions of increasing responsibility until he took early retirement in 1987.

During that time, he invented a laser-pushed light sail for round-trip manned interstellar flight; the Statite — a solar-sail spacecraft that does not orbit, but hangs in space near Earth with the Earth’s gravity nullified by light pressure from the sun; and the rotating cruciform gravity gradiometer mass detector for the measurement of lunar mascons. The mass detector was selected as a candidate experiment for the last Apollo mission, which was canceled.

After retiring he spent more time writing novels and working in his one-man aerospace consulting company, Forward Unlimited. He also was a consultant for the Air Force and NASA on advanced space propulsion concepts, with an emphasis on propulsion methods (light-sail, anti-matter, electrodynamic tether, etc.) that use physical principles other than chemical or nuclear rockets.

In 1992 he formed Tethers Unlimited with Robert P. Hoyt. When he reached 70, he turned over the reins of the company to Hoyt, and retired to part-time consulting and writing.

More information about Forward, including his photo and downloads of many of his papers, can be obtained at the Web site:

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