When I first heard about Friedrich Schmiedl, the founders of Open Medicine came to mind. Although not a physician, Friedrich Schmiedl was a researcher, visionary and pioneer who faced a choice of going with the norms of society or standing up for what he believed in, leaving the prestigious role that was endowed on him and pursue the path he felt was the right thing to do.
Friedrich Schmiedl (1902-1994) was a researcher, rocket pioneer and a pioneer in mail delivery. This was a time before emails, cell-phones and one had to rely on the use of 'letters' to communicate (remember those?). Friedrich Schmiedl completed civil engineering at the Univeristy of Graz in Austria. He was captivated by rocket technology and began developing and testing rockets in the 1920s. His initial rockets were involved in taking aerial photographs. He then moved to launching rockets from stratospheric balloons. He then developed a plan of using rockets to transport a payload of mail (letters) from one location to the other. Rocket-mail was another addition to the list of options for the delivery of mail which has evolved over the centuries; from being hand delivered to the use of horses, pigeons and then through air and sea transportation. In February 1931, Schmiedl was successful in launching a rocket that delivered 100 letters between 2 areas in Austria. He then launched his regular rocket-mail delivery system which became popular particularly among philatelists (collectors of postal stamps and postal stationary) who liked to add among their collection a letter/post-card which was delivered by a rocket!. Schmidel hoped to expand his mail delivery system and pursue mail delivery over larger distances (from one country to another) but his mail delivery system only continued until 1934 when a ban on rocket mail delivery service was made and then in 1935 private rocket development was also banned.
Friedrich Schmiedl's love and fascination of rockets did not cloud his judgment on the peaceful use and pursuit of rockets. He flatly refused to utilize his research for military purposes. Around the time of World War II Friedrich Schmiedl was offered the opportunity to work with Nazi Germany, and after the war the Americans also offered him an opportunity to work with them but he stood by his beliefs and what he felt was the right thing to do and refused both offers. It is said that he also destroyed all his research work so that it would not be used for military and war purposes.
It is hard in the world of research to pursue your dreams without compromises; as quality research is often impossible without adequate funding and the source of funding can at times have their own personal interests. Schmiedl displayed a rare trait by sacrificing his passion and hardwork for what he believed in. He passed away in 1994 at the age of 92.
About the author and collector: Dr. Farhan M. Asrar is a resident medical doctor (in the specialty of Public Health and Preventive Medicine) at McMaster University, Canada. He has a keen interest in history as well as collecting original arts and antiquities. The post-card with an original autograph of Friedrich Schmiedl is from his private collection. Dr. Asrar has also been selected as 'Emerging Chair' for the Department of Life Sciences and Space Medicine, Space Studies Program organized by the International Space University (ISU). The SSP is offered annually and sponsored by several organizations, governments and space agencies which include NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. The ISU is an international university (with its base in Strasbourg, France) that aims for the peaceful and boundless exploration and development of Space. This year's SSP shall be taking place in Austria at the University of Graz, (the same Univeristy Fredrich Schmiedl graduated from).
Schmiedl retrieved from www.astronautix.com/astros/schmiedl.htm
Ing. Friedrich Schmiedl foundation www.wirtschaft.graz.at
Caption:Original post honouring 50 years of rocketmail (1931-1981) autographed by Rocket pioneer Friedrich Schmiedl from the private collection of Dr. Farhan M. Asrar
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