JPL Co-founder Frank Malina (PhD '40) Remembered

Frank Malina, the ambitious Caltech student who cofounded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1930s, would have been 100 on Oct. 2.

In memory, Malina's relatives have curated a blog on the social site Tumblr, with interviews, historic photographs and even a letter from science fiction author Ray Bradbury.

Some of the electronic art Malina created after he retired in France post-World War II is also displayed on the blog.

On Oct. 31, 1936, Malina and Jack Parsons, Tsien Hsue-Shen, Ed Forman, Rudolph Schott and Apollo Milton Olin Smith conducted their first rocket experiment in an empty part of the Arroyo Seco.

Caltech professor Theodore von Karman nurtured Malina and opened up indoor lab spaces to the group, nicknamed the "Suicide Squad" after early tests caused explosions.

They scattered to different areas around the world after J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI investigated the men for links to the communist party.

JPL was officially founded in 1943. It became a NASA center after the space agency was formed in 1958.

In Bradbury's undated letter to Malina, he writes, "A million years from tonight, when future historians speak of the most important years in the history of the thinking beasts, your name will be there will Von Karman’s and all the rest. What a glad knowledge to have of yourself.”

See more on the blog at

--From Pasadena Sun