Archives and Special Collections

Robert Goddard's "Cherry Tree Vision"

At the age of 17, while in his family's yard, Robert Goddard had a vision of space travel that would remain with him for the rest of his life. Later, in an autobiographical sketch, Goddard wrote "on the afternoon of October 19, 1899, I climbed a tall cherry tree and, armed with a saw which I still have, and a hatchet, started to trim the dead limbs from the cherry tree. It was one of the quiet, colorful afternoons of sheer beauty which we have in October in New England, and as I looked towards the fields at the east, I imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars. I was a different boy when I descended the tree from when I ascended for existence at last seemed very purposive."

Page from Goddard's diary, dated Thursday, October 19, 1899

He mentions climbing the cherry tree, but says nothing about his vision of space travel.

diary entry Oct. 19, 1899

Pages from Goddard's autobiography

Beginning with the last line on the first page below, he describes the vision he had on October 19, 1899, which he refers to as Anniversary Day.

cherry tree vision description 1 cherry tree vision description 2