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Willy Ley Collection

Identifier: MC-3

Scope and Contents

LPs, audio, scrapbooks, Willy Ley's personal collection of science fiction books, personal correspondence, photos, newspaper and magazine articles, and documents concerning the Willy Ley Collection coming to the UAH Library.


  • Creation: 1902 - 2006


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research in the Archives & Special Collections reading room. Handling guidelines and use restrictions will be communicated and enforced by archives staff members.

Conditions Governing Use

This material may be protected under U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) which governs the making of photocopies or reproductions of copyrighted materials. You may use the digitized material for private study, scholarship, or research. Though the University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives and Special Collections has physical ownership of the material in its collections, in some cases we may not own the copyright to the material. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in our collections.

Biographical / Historical

On October 2, 1906, Willy Otto Oskar Ley was born to Julius Otto Ley and Frida May. Even in his youth, Ley loved exploration and discovery, and Ley eventually became infatuated with rockets and space travel. In 1927, Ley helped found the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel), an amateur rocket association. In the meantime, Ley wrote prolifically about rockets for both foreign and German newspapers, acquiring a reputation as an international scientist.

Ley helped contribute to the popularity of rocketry in Germany, eventually working as a technical consultant for Fritz Lang’s "Die Frau im Mond" ("Woman in the Moon"). However, thanks in no small part to the Great Depression, the rocketry fad in Germany died down, and the Nazis rose to power. Horrified by the tenets of National Socialism and the Nazis who embraced them, Ley fled his home in Germany in 1936, first settling in Great Britain before permanently moving to the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1944.

During his time in the United States, Ley continued to pursue his love of rockets and science fiction, supervising two rocket mail operations in Greenwood Lake, New York in 1936, publishing scientific articles in science fiction magazines, and writing both science fiction and nonfictional books on rockets and engineering, many containing surprisingly accurate predictions about future technology. In 1940, Ley joined the newspaper "PM," where he met his future wife, whom he married in 1941. In 1944, Ley published "Rockets: the Future of Travel Beyond the Stratosphere," a text in which he expressed his belief that rockets would someday make the fantasy of space travel a reality. In 1949, he published "The Conquest of Space," a speculative science book.

Ley continued to write and participate in both science and science fiction projects for the rest of his life, never losing his passion for science. Ley passed away at age 62 on June 24, 1969, less than a month before Apollo 11 landed on the moon.


6.75 Linear feet (7 boxes and 1 oversize box.)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Willy Ley, 1970.

Existence and Location of Copies

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, and competing priorities. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.


Megan Sullivan, Andrew Tucker
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives & Special Collections Repository

M. Louis Salmon Library
301 Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35899 Alabama 35899 United States of America