From flying model airplanes to designing the ramjet engine and thrusters for NASA’s space program, Burlington native Roy Marquardt made his name on the wings of future flight.
Today would have Marquardt’s hundredth birthday. Born Christmas Eve in 1917, Marquardt lived at 1604 Osborn St., where his childhood was filled with model airplanes powered by rubber bands. He established a model club and drew up a blueprint of a model plane he called “Special R.O.G.” (Rise off Ground) before he was 14-years-old.
In a sign of his many accomplishments to come, Marquardt dominated a St. Louis model airplane meet, outdistancing his opponents by flying his model plane for 30 miles.
Funding college through model airplanes
By the time he reached high school, Marquardt was teaching model airplane construction and aeronautics at school and the YMCA. He constructed a wind tunnel at his high school, where students Frank Broeg and George Bied learned to make model planes before creating World War II bombers.
After finishing high school, Marquardt attended the now defunct Burlington Junior College, teaching the same aeronautics course he established four years earlier while running a model airplane business to help pay for school.
No longer content to keep his talent in southeast Iowa, Marquardt moved to southern California in 1938 and enrolled at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering in just two years. He spent one of those years pursuing liberal arts, which he abandoned in his favor of his love for aviation.
Marquardt continued to sell model airplanes as he pursued his master’s degree, then moved to the Northrop Corporation as engineer-in-charge of Navy research.
Discovering the Ramjet Principal
While working at Northrop on engine cooling and exhaust problems for the XB-35 “Flying Wing,” Marquardt rediscovered the ramjet principle — a principle of propulsion that has been…