Eric Burgess

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Eric Burgess

Eric Burgess circa 1995
Birth Name Eric Burgess
Birth Date 1920
Date of Death March 2005
Occupation Astronomer, Accountant, Author
Nationality United Kingdom


Early Life

Eric Burgess was born in 1920 and was educated at the High School of Commerce in Manchester England. Around 1933 he became interested in space through the John Carter novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Before World War II he worked as an accountant to a motor and engineering firm. He joined the Royal Air Force and served five and a half years as a technical instructor.

Manchester Interplanetary Society

On June 1st 1936 Burgess formed the Manchester Interplanetary Society after having organised various meetings on rocketry. The society initially included Burgess and four other members including two girls, one of whom was his cousin Lillian Dawber. All were around 15-16 years old. He established a rocket proving ground near Glossop in the Pennines in 1937. At this time the society had grown to about 16 or 17 people and meetings were held at Burgess' house in Clayton, a small suburb just east of Manchester. On March 27th 1937 Burgess and other members of the society performed a rocket test at Clayton Vale, a gully running near Burgess's home, in front of a crowd of dozens of onlookers. One of the rockets exploded and injured some people in the crowd leading to the Society being put on trial on June 14th. At the trial Burgess eloquently defended the society's actions. Their barrister, Kenneth Burke, who had found out about the society through a mutual acquaintance at the Daily Express newspaper, offered his services for free and the charges were withdrawn. As a result of the trial further rocket experimenting in England was effectively finished. Burgess would urge further experimentation and this would lead to a disagreement in the ranks of the society. Along with fellow member Trevor Cusack, Burgess would leave to form the Manchester Astronautical Association and leave the Manchester Interplanetary Society to other members, such as artist Harry Turner.

Combined British Astronomical Society and World War II

The Manchester Astronautical Association would combine with similar groups during the war and would be the only effective organisation to operate during the War years. Burgess was later elected as President of the C.B.A.S.

When the British Interplanetary Society placed their activities on hiatus during World War II, Burgess decided to continue with his activities in Manchester. He teamed with another space enthusiast, Kenneth W. Gatland, to keep the principles of the British Interplanetary Society alive.

After the War - The New BIS

Burgess became friends with Arthur C. Clarke and met with him near the end of the War. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities Burgess and the members of the C.B.A.S. met with some of the members of the British Interplanetary Society to combine forces. The meeting took place on September 25 1945. Many BIS members did not attend the meeting and several were displaced, including founder Philip Ellaby Cleator, who felt that it was in the interests of the BIS for the focus of the group to be moved to London. Shortly after the end of the meeting Burgess became Chairman of the new BIS. He would be the first to sign the new register and would be forever subsequently listed as member number one, with Clarke signing second, R.A. Smith third, Cleator fourth and Gatland fifth.


Eric Burgess wrote hundreds of editorials and articles about space flight. His books included Assault on the Moon, To The Red Planet, Pioneer Venus, An Introduction to Rockets and Spaceflight,Outpost on Apollo's Moon, Flight to Mercury, By Jupiter, Far Encounter the Neptune System, Return to the Red Planet, Venus an Errant Twin, Uranus and Neptune the Distant Twins, and Celestial Basic - Astronomy on Your Computer. Unlike many of his colleagues in the British Interplanetary Society Burgess did not write a lot of science fiction, however, at least one story, Project Terminal is known to exist.

Books by Eric Burgess

Later Life

Eric Burgess moved to California in 1956 and became an American citizen in 1962. He did management work for the US Navy and US Air Force and was a consultant to the American Federal Aviation Authority. He died in 2005.

Category:Author Category:Engineer