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The Life And Times of Delos D. Harriman


The Life And Times of Delos D. Harriman, Anthony Truphan, Biodegradable Press, Oshkosh Falls, 1998


Biodegradable Press has recently added a biographical series edited by Rodney McFinister. The Life and Times of Delos D. Harriman is the first selection in their new line. It is a good choice.

D.D. Harriman was one of the great men of the twentieth century. In the public mind he is Mr. Space Travel, the man who, more than anyone, made space travel a reality. He was much more than that, as a businessman, as an empire builder, and as a human being.

It is ironic that one of the richest men in the world became what he was because of a shortage of money. In a rare retrospective interview not long before he died Harriman reminisced about how reading early science fiction gave him the dream of becoming an astronomer and how his family was too poor to send him to college. His desire was to be a foot soldier in the conquest of space; denied the opportunity to enlist, he became a general instead.

The Life and Times recounts the many twists in the building of the Harriman and Strong financial empire. Harriman was famous for his foresight into future technology, both for getting in early when nobody was a believer and for getting out when everybody was a believer. His forays into and out of nuclear power and mass transportation are widely studied as case examples in business schools.

Justice is done to his lifelong partner, Strong. In their partnership (and it was a partnership, regardless of the corporate technicalities) Harriman was Mr. Outside and Strong was Mr. Inside. Harriman had the dreams; Strong made them happen.

One of the real differences between the two men was that Strong had a normal and happy family life outside of business. He was only married once, he and his wife lived to a ripe old age, and they had several children. Harriman's personal life was touched by tragedy. He and his wife were never truly compatible, she died early, they had no children, and he quite openly despised his relatives. He truly was a man alone except for business into which he poured his dreams and his life.

The story of his death is a melodramatic romance. Denied medical clearance for that last flight that he dreamed of, pursued by avaricious relatives bent on declaring him incompetent so that they could seize his fortune, he escaped the sanctions of the bureaucrats and went ahead to do what he had always dreamed of doing. He died doing it. It was a fitting end to a grand life.

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