We Cannot Take All the Credit for Our Record Advancements in Certain Scientific Fields Alone. We Have Been Helped

Hermann Oberth? Apocryphal?

saucer07Dear Quote Investigator: Engineer Hermann Oberth was an extraordinary pioneer in the fields of rocketry and astronautics. Provocatively, he conjectured that Earth was being visited by spaceships from another solar system. I saw a fascinating quotation about the development of advanced technology that was attributed to him in a book about UFOs:

We cannot take all the credit for our record advancements in certain scientific fields alone; we have been helped by the people of other worlds.

Is this an authentic remark from Oberth?

Quote Investigator: QI has not yet found any direct evidence supporting this ascription to Hermann Oberth in his writings or in an interview. A matching statement was attributed to him in the 1974 book “Did Spacemen Colonise the Earth?” by Robin Collyns. The words appeared as an epigraph to chapter twenty, but no justifying citation was given. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Dr Hermann Oberth, internationally-known rocket pioneer and space authority, UFO lecturer, and head of the US CALTECH Laboratories until 1955, said:

‘We cannot take all the credit for our record advancements in certain scientific fields alone; we have been helped!’ When asked by whom, he replied: ‘The people of other worlds!’

The passage above was compressed to yield the quotation under investigation. Oberth died in 1989; hence, the words were attributed to him while he was will alive.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Oberth wrote about alien spacecraft in a 1954 article titled “Flying Saucers Come from a Distant World” published in the Sunday newspaper supplement “The American Weekly”, but he did not mention acquiring technology from the saucer inhabitants: 2

It is my thesis that flying saucers are real and that they are space ships from another solar system. I think that they possibly are manned by intelligent observers who are members of a race that may have been investigating our earth for centuries.

I think that they possibly have been sent out to conduct systematic, long-range investigations, first of men, animals and vegetation, and more recently of atomic centers, armaments and centers of armament production.

They obviously have not come as invaders, but I believe their present mission may be one of scientific investigation.

At the end of the piece Oberth mentioned attempting to contact the extraterrestrials. Interestingly, his discussion implicitly assumed that humans had not yet achieved this contact: 3

How can we turn their venture to our own profit? If we can make them understand some kind of message, we should welcome them. We should try by every scientific means that seems feasible to get into contact with them.

Perhaps they can disclose to us secrets that otherwise we might not lay bare in a hundred thousand years.

The passage above suggested that in 1954 Oberth did not believe that extraterrestrials were already transferring technological knowledge to humans. Yet, it is conceivable that he developed that position at a later time.

In 1974 the author Robin Collyns ascribed the quotation to Oberth as noted previously:

‘We cannot take all the credit for our record advancements in certain scientific fields alone; we have been helped!’ When asked by whom, he replied: ‘The people of other worlds!’

The 1996 book “Architects of the Underworld: Unriddling Atlantis, Anomalies of Mars, and the Mystery of the Sphinx” by Bruce Rux included a slightly altered version of the quotation: 4

Dr. Hermann Oberth, one of the great pioneers in astronautics, who unequivocally stated his belief publicly that UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft, also believed private exploitation was occurring. He said in 1974, “We cannot take the credit for our record advancement in certain scientific fields alone; we have had help.” Asked by whom, he answered, “The people from other worlds.”

In 2004 “The UFO Magazine: UFO Encyclopedia” included an entry about Oberth that discussed the 1954 article and printed an excerpt. The reference also stated incorrectly that the quotation under examination was included in the 1954 article; the quotation was absent: 5

Oberth was also quoted in the same article as having said, “We cannot take the credit for our record advancement in certain scientific fields alone. We have been helped [by] the people of other worlds.”

In 2013 the statement appeared in “An Alien Enterprise: The Shocking Truth Behind the Greatest Cover-Up in Human History” by Timothy Good. The accompanying footnote supported the ascription to Oberth by pointing to the 1974 book “Did Spacemen Colonise the Earth?” which was discussed previously in this article: 6

“We cannot take the credit for our record advancement in certain scientific fields alone; we have been helped,” conceded Oberth some years later. When asked by whom, he replied, “The people of other worlds.”

In conclusion, QI believes that the excerpts from the 1954 article accurately represented Hermann Oberth’s views at that time. QI is uncertain about the quotation under investigation because it only seems to be traceable to the 1974 book, and no solid source is given. Perhaps future researchers will learn more.

Image Notes: Fictional depiction of flying saucer from photovision at Pixabay. Image has been retouched, cropped, and resized.

(Great thanks to William Frankeberger whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Frankeberger asked about a version of the quotation that was similar to that in the 2004 citation.)

Notes:

  1. 1974, Did Spacemen Colonise the Earth? by Robin Collyns, Chapter 20: Scientific Proof of Extra-Terrestrial Life, Quote Page 236, Published by Pelham Books, London. (Verified with hardcopy)
  2. 1954 October 24, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Section: The American Weekly, Flying Saucers Come from a Distant World by Prof. Hermann Oberth, Start Page 4, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)
  3. 1954 October 24, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Section: The American Weekly, Flying Saucers Come from a Distant World by Prof. Hermann Oberth, Start Page 4, Quote Page 5, Column 3, Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)
  4. 1996, Architects of the Underworld: Unriddling Atlantis, Anomalies of Mars, and the Mystery of the Sphinx by Bruce Rux, Quote Page 23, Frog, Ltd., Berkeley, California. (Google Books Preview)
  5. 2004, The UFO Magazine: UFO Encyclopedia: The Most Comprehensive Single-Volume UFO Reference in Print, Edited by William J. Birnes, Entry: Hermann Oberth, Quote Page 237 and 238, Pocket Books: Division of Simon & Schuster, New York. (Google Books Preview)
  6. 2013, Earth: An Alien Enterprise: The Shocking Truth Behind the Greatest Cover-Up in Human History by Timothy Good, Chapter 7: Infiltration, Unnumbered Page, Pegasus Books, New York, Distributed by Open Road Integrated Media. (Google Books Preview)