Photo of Herbert Friedman

Herbert Friedman

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For pioneering work in rocket and satellite astronomy and in particular for his contributions to the field of X-ray astronomy.

Herbert Friedman went to work every day for more than a paycheck.

“If I were rich, I would pay for the privilege of doing it,” his wife, Gertrude, recalled him saying about his research in astronomy and astrophysics during a 40-year career at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

Friedman began his career at NRL in 1940, using X-rays to study materials.

Ten years later, he switched to an emerging field: the study of space using “sounding rockets,” instrument-carrying vessels used to take measurements and make observations.

In one experiment, Friedman released a series of rockoons – small rockets lifted by balloons before launch – and used them to capture a solar flare, an explosion on the sun.

Among other pioneering efforts, Friedman helped capture the first image of the sun using a pinhole camera and fly the first solar satellite, SOLRAD, which serves as a model for the instruments the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses today.