Conway W. Snyder

Conway W. Snyder, eminent space scientist and long-time resident of La Crescenta, died in Redlands on April 14th at the age of 93.

Born in Macon, Missouri, in 1918, Snyder moved to California in 1932. He earned a BA in Physics from the University of Redlands in 1939, and an MS from the University of Iowa. He married Marjorie Frisius in 1943. The couple had three children.

During World War II, Snyder worked on the Manhattan Project and was present at first atomic bomb test. He was one of the few, true "Rocket Scientists," as he designed and tested rockets for the Navy, including the Sidewinder and the Holy Moses, an air-to-ground rocket that was considered the most effective rocket in the Allied arsenal.

Snyder was awarded a Ph.D. in nuclear physics by Cal Tech in 1948. He then moved his family to the east. He worked for the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C., and on the Nuclear Energy for Propulsion of Aircraft program in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and taught physics at Florida State University. In 1955 he returned to California to begin work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Snyders resided in La Crescenta until the mid-1980s.

At JPL Snyder was involved in numerous space exploration programs from the 1960s until his retirement in 1984. Those included the first U.S. satellite Explorer; the moon probes Rangers 1 and 2; several Mariner missions to Venus and Mars; Pioneer Venus 2; and Vikings 1 and 2 which explored Mars. The 1498-page book Mars which he co-edited with three other scientists authenticated him as one of the world’s most knowledgeable experts on the red planet. He also worked on the Orbiting Geophysical Observatory and the international Infra-Red Astronomical Survey. A Solar Wind Spectrometer which Snyder conceived and designed was deployed on the surface of the moon by astronauts of both Apollo 12 and 15. NASA honored him with three Exceptional Scientific Achievement Awards.

After retiring and traveling the world, the Snyders moved to Redlands in 1999. They celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in 2008, and Marjorie passed away in May 2009. The University of Redlands has established a Conway Snyder Scholarship to benefit a worthy science student. Donations in his name may be sent to the “University of Redlands Student Scholarship Fund”. 

Snyder is survived by 3 children, Don Snyder of Chatsworth, Sheryl Savina of Brunoy, France, and Sylvia Woods of La Crescenta; 4 grandchildren; and 3 great-granddaughters.


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