Dr. Michael J. Neufeld is a Senior Curator in the Space History Department. He served as Chair of the department from 2007 to 2011. Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, he received history degrees from the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia, before getting a Ph.D. in Modern European History from The Johns Hopkins University in 1984. After teaching in upstate New York, Dr. Neufeld came to the Museum in 1988 as the A. Verville Fellow, and held Smithsonian and National Science Foundation fellowships in 1989-90.
In 1990, Dr. Neufeld became a curator in the Museum's Aeronautics Division, where he remained until early 1999, specializing in World War II history and German World War II aircraft. After transferring to the Space History Division, he took over early missile and rocket collections and Mercury and Gemini spacecraft. He has led, or contributed to, several Museum exhibits, including Air Power in World War II, Apollo to the Moon, and the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery. He was also extensively involved in the creation of the McDonnell Space Hangar at the Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. He is lead curator of Destination Moon, which includes a travelling exhibit of the Apollo 11 command module Columbia from 2017 to 2020, and a new exhibition gallery in the Museum to open in 2022. In 2017, Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton presented him with the Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar award, the highest research honor of the Institution.
Dr. Neufeld has written many scholarly articles and four books: The Skilled Metalworkers of Nuremberg: Craft and Class in the Industrial Revolution (1989); The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era (1995), which won two book prizes; Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War (2007), which won three awards; and Spaceflight: A Concise History (2018). He has also edited or co-edited five books: Yves Béon’s memoir Planet Dora (1997), The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? (with Michael Berenbaum, 2000), Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: An Autobiography (with Alex Spencer, 2010), Spacefarers: Images of Astronauts and Cosmonauts in the Heroic Age of Spaceflight (2013), and Milestones of Space: Eleven Iconic Objects from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (2014). More recently he has published articles on the history of NASA planetary exploration since 1989 and on the origins of neutral buoyancy training for EVA. He has appeared on numerous television and radio programs, particularly regarding the Nazi rocket program, Wernher von Braun, and the U.S. space program in the 1960s.