"He's lived in the footnotes since his death. He's a forgotten figure," says biographer George Pendle, author of Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parson (Jack's full name).
Pendle did an "archeological dig" into Parsons' life after finding a mention of him in a science book. "The more I dug, the more bizarre and extreme the story seemed."In short: Parsons played a critical role in the formation of rocket science and was instrumental in building the rockets that were eventually used in the Space Race. However, he also believed in magic, was involved in the early stages of Scientology and had an extremely colourful sex life. For that reason, Pendle speculates, Parsons' was a figure who didn't fit into the mould of the Industrial Complex. "Wernher von Braun -- a former Nazi -- was much a much easier fit than Parsons," says Pendle. "A lot of people would be shocked to find out that the space programme was founded by a man who held orgies in his Pasadena mansion."