Frank H. Winter was born in London, England, in 1942, and emigrated to the U.S. at age nine, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1960. From 1964-68 he served in the U.S. Air Force primarily as a military journalist. In 1966 he won the Robert H. Goddard Essay Award sponsored by the National Space Club. He continued his avocation of researching and writing on the history of space flight and rocketry. Upon discharge from the Air Force, Winter continued his education and earned a BA cum laude in history from the University of Maryland.
Winter joined the National Air and Space Museum in 1970, initially as a historical research clerk, and became a historian in 1980. In 1984 he was named curator of rocketry. Winter won two additional Goddard essay awards and presented the American Astronautical Society's first Goddard Memorial Lecture, for which he was bestowed with a medal. From 1971 to the present, he has regularly presented scholarly papers on the history of rocketry at International Astronautical Federation congresses, International Congresses of the History of Science, and other forums.
In addition to numerous articles and papers, he is the author of several books, including:
- Prelude to the Space Age: The Rocket Societies 1924-1940 (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983)
- Comet Watch: The Return of Halley's Comet (Lerner Publications, 1986)
- The First Golden Age of Rocketry: Congreve and Hale Rockets of the Nineteenth Century (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991)
- Rockets into Space (Harvard University Press, 1991)
- 100 Years of Flight: A chronicle of Aerospace History 1903-2003, co-authored with F. Robert van der Linden (AIAA, 2003)
He is a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, the history committees of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Astronautical Society.
In 2002, Winter and Kerrie Dougherty, curator of space technology at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, jointly won an International Partnership Among Museums scholarship of the American Association of Museums. Consequently, Winter traveled to Australia in 2003, with related trips to Laos and Thailand, in connection with the future Powerhouse exhibit, Fire Dragons: 1,000 Years of Rocketry in Asia.
He retired as a Smithsonian employee in 2007 but continues to help the Space History Department as a curator emeritus.