Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. was born October 2, 1935, in Chicago. He received an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Bradley University in 1956, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant into the US Air Force upon graduation at age 20. Lawrence later earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1965 from Ohio State University.
Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. distinguished himself as an exceptional Air Force test pilot and was among the first to be named to the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program, which was a precursor to today's successful NASA space shuttle program.
In 1997, thirty years after his tragic death, the Chicago native son's name was the 17th added to The Astronauts Memorial Foundation Space Mirror. The mirror was dedicated in 1991 to honor all US astronauts who have lost their lives on space missions or in training for missions.