Eleanor C. Pressly

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Eleanor C. Pressly
Three white women standing with an award, smiling
Eleanor Pressly, Evelyn M. Anderson, and Nancy Roman, from a 1964 awards ceremony
Due West, South Carolina
DiedMay 10, 2003
Rockville, Maryland
Occupationmathematician, aeronautical engineer
Known forsounding rocket program, Goddard Space Flight Center

Eleanor Crockett Pressly (1918–2003 ) was an American mathematician and aeronautical engineer in the sounding rocket program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Early life[edit]

Eleanor Crockett Pressly was born in Due West, South Carolina,[1] the daughter of Samuel Agnew Pressly and Georgia Crockett Pressly.[2][3] She earned a bachelor's degree at Erskine College in 1938, and a master's degree in mathematics at Duke University in 1943.[4][5]

Seven women standing in a row with the President, in the Oval Office, in 1963.
President John F. Kennedy with 1963 Federal Woman's Award winners. From left to right: Katie Louchheim, Bessie Margolin, Eleanor L. Makel, Verna C. Mohagen, President Kennedy, Blanche W. Noyes, Eleanor C. Pressly, Katharine Mather. Photograph by Cecil W. Stoughton.


During World War II, Pressly taught mathematics to air corps students at Winthrop College[5] and worked at Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University. After the war, she was a mathematician and aeronautical research engineer at the United States Naval Research Laboratory[6] and was a member of the American Rocket Society.[4] She also oversaw launches at White Sands Missile Range[7][8] and Fort Churchill in Manitoba.[6] "No matter how many times it happens, I can never get over the excitement of a launching," she told an interviewer in 1957.[1]

Pressly transferred to the Goddard Space Flight Center soon after it opened in 1958, and was head of the Vehicles Section in the Spacecraft Integration and Sounding Rocket Division, in charge of probes launched into the upper atmosphere.[9] She developed the Aerobee Jr., co-developed Aerobee-Hi 150, and oversaw the design of the Aerobee Hi 150 A, all sounding rockets used during the International Geophysical Year (1957–1958).[10] When James E. Webb spoke to the General Federation of Women's Clubs in 1962, he mentioned Pressly by name as one of the women in a "position of importance" at NASA.[11]

In 1963 Pressly was one of the six recipients of the Federal Woman's Award, given to career federal employees who made significant contributions to their programs.[12] In 1964, Lady Bird Johnson invited Pressly to the White House again, for a luncheon about women in the space program.[13] In 1966, she chaired a panel at the Conference on Unguided Rocket Ballistics in El Paso, Texas.[14] In 1981 she was honored with the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award from the Erskine Alumni Association.[15]


Publications by Pressly included "Counting with Geiger Counters" (Review of Scientific Instruments 1949, with Homer E. Newell),[16] Upper Atmosphere Research Report Number 21. Summary of Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research Firings (Naval Research Laboratory, February 1954, with Charles P. Smith Jr.),[17] "A Mass Spectrometric Study of the Upper Atmosphere" (1954, with John W. Townsend Jr. and Edith B. Meadows),[18] "Future Sounding Rockets" (1958, with Newell and Townsend)[19] "The Aerobee Rocket" (1958, with Townsend and James Van Allen),[20] and "The Sounding Rocket as a Tool for College and University Research" (NASA, December 1962).[4]

Personal life[edit]

Pressly died in Rockville, Maryland, in 2003, aged 84 years.[21]


  1. ^ a b Leighton, Frances (April 28, 1957). "Miss Rocketeer". The Corpus Christi Caller-Times. p. 87. Retrieved June 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ "Dies as Result of Thyroid Operation". Bluefield Daily Telegraph. April 18, 1931. p. 5. Retrieved June 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  3. ^ "Pressly-Crockett" (PDF). Clinch Valley News. September 28, 1917. p. 1. Retrieved June 8, 2019 – via Chronicling America.
  4. ^ a b c Pressly, Eleanor C. "The Sounding Rocket as a Tool for College and University Research" Geophysics and Astronomy in Space Exploration (December 1962): 1-6.
  5. ^ a b "Miss Pressly to Winthrop College". The Index-Journal. August 23, 1943. p. 2. Retrieved June 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ a b Hart, Alicia (October 21, 1956). "Woman Plays Vital Research Role". The Daily Inter Lake. p. 20. Retrieved June 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Rocket Gets Feminine Touch". The Honolulu Advertiser. February 19, 1958. p. 2. Retrieved June 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ Cange, Don (February 21, 1958). "Woman Heads Navy Project" (PDF). Wind & Sand. Retrieved June 8, 2019.
  9. ^ Corliss, William R. NASA Sounding Rockets: A Historical Summary (NASA 1971): 80.
  10. ^ Scientific and Technical Information Division, Office of Technology Utilization (1968). Venture Into Space: Early Years of Goddard Space Flight Center (PDF). NASA. pp. 16, 238.
  11. ^ "Space Effort Needs the Support of Women, Children, Says Webb" (PDF). NASA Roundup. July 11, 1962. p. 8. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  12. ^ "Awards to Honor 6 Women". The Courier-Journal. April 7, 1963. p. 13. Retrieved June 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ "Charlotte Native White House Guest". Asheville Citizen-Times. March 17, 1964. p. 17. Retrieved June 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  14. ^ "Panel Ends Rocket Conference". El Paso Times. September 2, 1966. p. 9. Retrieved June 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ "Sullivan Award". Erskine College. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  16. ^ Newell, Homer E.; Pressly, Eleanor C. (1949-08-01). "Counting with Geiger Counters". Review of Scientific Instruments. 20 (8): 568–572. doi:10.1063/1.1741618. ISSN 0034-6748.
  17. ^ Smith, Jr; Pressly, Eleanor C. (February 1954). "Upper Atmosphere Research Report Number 21. Summary of Upper Atmosphere Rocket Research Firings". Naval Research Laboratory.
  18. ^ John W. Townsend, Jr., Edith B. Meadows, Eleanor C. Pressly, "A Mass Spectrometric Study of the Upper Atmosphere", Rocket Exploration of the Upper Atmosphere, ed. by R. L. F. Boyd and M. Seaton, pp. 169·188, lnterscience Publishers, N.Y. (1954).
  19. ^ Homer E. Newell, Jr., Eleanor Pressly, and John W. Townsend, Jr., "Future Sounding Rockets", Sounding Rockets, Chapter 17, ed. by H. E. Newell, Jr., McGraw-Hill Book Co., N.Y. (1958).
  20. ^ James A. Van Allen, John W. Townsend, Jr., and Eleanor C. Pressly, "The Aerobee Rocket", Sounding Rockets, Chapter 4, ed. by H. E. Newell, Jr., McGraw-Hill Book Co., N.Y. (1958).
  21. ^ "Eleanor C. Pressly". The Washington Post. May 12, 2003. Retrieved June 8, 2019.

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