Inventors Gallery


A, B, C, D, E,
F, G, H, J, K,
L, M, P, R, S,
T, V, W, Z,
End Notes


Ader, Clement (1841-1925)
Clement Ader designed three powered airplanes, the Eole, the Avion II, and the Avion III. The Eole made a brief flight of 50 meters on October 9, 1890. The Avion II was never completed. The Avion III never flew. In 1906, following publicity about the Wright brothers' success, Ader made the rather pathetic claim that the Avion III had flown 300 meters in 1897. A small group of Europeans, who sought to minimize the Wrights role in the invention of the airplane, promoted this claim for selfish reasons. Gibbs-Smith finally wrote a monograph disproving the claim for once and for all.

The above is my opinion as of May 1, 1996. However, there is usually more than one side to any story, and the same is true for Ader. You may wish to visit a new site that provides a different perspective: The Clemént Ader Home Page. This page presents a different view to the events of 1890, according to the site developer, based on newly-discovered evidence. Given my respect for Gibbs-Smith, I want to look over the material carefully before changing my mind.

Aerial Experiment Association
The A.E.A. was an American group formed in 1907 by Alexander Graham Bell. Members included F. W. (Casey) Baldwin, J. A. D. McCurdy, Lt. T. E. Selfridge, and Glenn H. Curtiss. Bell explored the development of airplanes based on tetrahedral cells in a large kite framework as a way of circumventing the Wright patents. The other members favored more traditional designs. Curtiss was quite successful in developing effective airplanes, but became one of the chief Wright adversaries when he deliberately violated their patent rights. He and Albert Zahm carried out a long campaign to discredit the Wrights which has been remarkably effective, even to this day.

Archdeacon, Ernest (1863-1950)
Rich lawyer and sportsman, the French Archdeacon created the Aéro-Club de France in response to Chanute's "dinner-conférence" in March, 1903. Archdeacon built a copy of the Wright No. 3 glider, but had only limited success. Archdeacon was soon joined by Gabriel Voisin, who developed and sold many early aircraft.

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Blériot, Louis (1872-1936)
Blériot started off on the wrong foot with an ornithopter model in 1901-02. He then developed an extended sequence of unsuccessful craft, including the Blériot models II-VII. The Blériot VIII, a tractor monoplane, pointed the way to eventual success. The Blériot XI was a classic monoplane, with numerous copies made and sold. Tom Crouch has written a brief monograph on Blériot and his early machines.

Breguet, Louis (1880-1955)

Bustov, William Paul
William Bustov was an associate of Octave Chanute, and under Chanute's sponsorship developed the Albatross, which made a short unmanned flight during the Chanute experiments in the dunes of Indiana in 1897.

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Cayley, Sir George (1773-1857)
Sir George Cayley has been called the inventor of the airplane, although I prefer to think of him as its 'Grandfather.' Cayley made extensive anatomical and functional studies of birds and bird flight. From measurements of bird and human muscle masses, Cayley determined that it was impossible for humans to strap on a pair of wings and take to the air. This led him to propose a fixed-wing airplane with a separate system for thrust. He developed three gliders that embodied these principles. The gliders were successful in carrying people over a short distance -- the first successful modern airplane configuration. His work was highly influential in the eventual development of the airplane.

Chanute, Octave (1832-1910)
Octave Chanute was a successful engineer who took up the invention of the airplane as a hobby following his early retirement. His book Progress in Flying Machines was a useful compendium of information about heavier-than-air flight that was widely read and respected. Chanute sponsored the construction of several craft -- the most successful was the Herring/Chanute biplane glider that formed the basis of the Wright biplane design. Chanute was also a tireless international promoter of airplane development, sharing news from around the globe with interested inventors. His correspondence and association with the Wright brothers played an important role in their ultimate success, perhaps more for his encouragement than for technical matters. He visited the Wright camp at Kitty Hawk in 1902 and 1903, and saw the powered flyer take to the air in 1904.

Cody, Samuel Franklin (1861-1913)

Curtiss, Glenn Hammond (1878-1930)
It is hard to say good things about a man whose actions, deliberate and motivated by greed, contributed significantly to the death of a fine and honorable man, Wilbur Wright. Curtiss did not, of course, deliberately try to harm Wilbur, but his actions had that unintended consequence.

Having said that, it is important to recognize that Curtiss made several important contributions to the world of aviation that helped transform the airplane from an interesting novelty to a craft capable of doing useful work.

Two of his direct contributions to the world of aviation include advanced engines and the hydroaeroplane. Curtiss developed great airplane engines -- lightweight, reliable, and powerful. Curtiss also solved the problem of finding a way to make takeoffs from water. Although hydroaeroplanes are unusual at this time, they were a significant contribution at a time when paved runways were almost nonexistent.

The companies that Curtiss headed made several other important contributions to aviation, including the development of the first airplanes that crossed the Atlantic ocean. Curtiss certainly played a role in the development of these planes, but cannot be given sole credit for their development. Indeed, my reading of the matter is that he played a relatively minor role in many of the inventions and developments produced by his company. To his credit, Curtiss was an effective manager, knew how to get the best out of his men, and was not afraid to adopt advances made elsewhere.

Having said all that, I find his behavior toward the Wrights quite reprehensible, as were the actions of the rest of the A.E.A. It will take me a while to set the story out in full, but I believe there is good evidence to support my harsh judgment of him: "Thief, liar, speed demon."

There are always two sides of any story. Jack Carpenter has developed an extensive web site on Glenn Curtiss that presents the matter from a different perspective. Jack has made a fine site that is well worth checking out.

Another perspective on the story appears at C. R. Roseberry's book: "Glenn Curtiss: Pioneer of Flight." Roseberry goes to considerable lengths to transform Curtiss from sinner to Saint, and exploits every opportunity to villify the Wright brothers, so between the two of us, you can at least get both sides of the story. I am also putting online Curtiss' own book, The Curtiss Aviation Story as time permits.

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da Vinci, Leonardo (1452-1519)

de Caters, Baron

De Pischoff, Alfred

Dunne, John William

Du Temple, Felix (1823-1890)

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Ellehammer, Jacob Christian H. (1871-1946)

Esnault-Pelterie, Robert (1881-1957)

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Farman, Henri (1874-1958)

Farman, Maurice (1877-1964)

Ferber, Captain Ferdinand (1862-1909)

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Gasnier, Rene (1874-1913)



Goupy, Ambroise

Grade, Hans (1879-1946)

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Herring, Augustus Moore (1867-1926)

Hargrave, Lawrence (1850-1915)

Lawrence Hargrave invented the box kite and made important contributions to our understanding of lift and drag of airplane wings. His writings and experiments clearly had a large influence on the invention and development of the airplane. Dr. Russell Naughton has created a wonderful site that reviews the contributions of this important pioneer. Naughton's site also features an extensive timeline of aviation history. Check out Lawrence Hargrave: Austrailian Aviation Pioneer.

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Jatho, Karl (1873 - ??)

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Kapferer, Henry
Koechlin, M. M.

Kress, Wilhelm (1846-1913)
To my knowledge, Kress never got his triple-winged ice-boat off the water, but those woodcuts are sure pretty. Check out a brief report that appeared in Scientific American back in 1901.

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Langley, Samuel Pierpont (1834-1906)
Langley was an aristocrat at heart. He could be charming in social settings but ugly to underlings. He began by developing a completely useless whirling arm to explore lift and drag, then turned to a rather boring exploration of small gliders. His pet theory, The internal work of the wind, argued that planes could fly forever after having been launched, using the energy of the wind to drive them forward. With that sort of clear thinking on his side, it is no wonder the military handsomely funded his research. Although he made two successful flights with steam-powered models, his Aerodrome was a complete failure. To minimize the embarassment, the Smithsonian Institution allowed Curtiss and Zahm to secretly alter the Aerodrome, then fly it to 'prove' the Wrights were not the first to fly. Curtiss lost his case anyway, but it led to a long feud between Orville and the Smithsonian.

La Vaulx, Comte Henre de
Le Bris, Jean-Marie (1808-1872)
Letur, Louis Charles (?? - 1854)

Lilienthal, Otto (1848-1896)

Lilienthal was a successful German engineer who developed hang gliders from 1889 until his death from a gliding accident in 1896. His stature as an engineer and his success with fixed-wing gliders paved the way for others who were interested in aviation, and his advocacy of developing gliders before powered machines led the Wrights to pursue the same strategy. He developed nineteen different gliders which were usually flown from an artificial conical hill he constructed at Lichterfelde near Berlin or from Gollenberg near Stolln.

An American who developed a large biplane around 1905. I don't believe the plane was successful on its own power, but was flown once as a powered kite, towed by a boat and driven by its own engine. Pictures of the hapless 'aeronaut' trying to control this monster are incredible. Luckily, he survived the only trial I've read about so far. Further information about Ludlow would be appreciated.

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Maxim, Sir Hiram Stevens (1840-1916)
Sir Hiram Maxim was an expatriot American living in England. He made a fortune with his invention of the machine gun. Maxim spent $100,000 (real money in those days) to develop his Biplane Test Rig, a gargantuan craft powered by two 180 h.p. steam engines that drove twin 17.8 ft. propellers. A two-tier track was constructed to test the ungainly craft. The lower tier was a standard iron rail, while the upper tier was a wooden guardrail designed to prevent the craft from gaining a dangerous altitude. During the principal test on July 31, 1894, the craft lifed off the lower rail, broke the upper rail, and crashed back down. A complete waste of money by almost any account. To further publicize his stupidity, Maxim made fun of Lilienthal, calling him a 'flying squirrel.'

Montgomery, John J. (1858-1911)
Yet another claim-jumper. Montgomery made a brief hop in his first (1883) model, followed by two entirely unsuccessful gliders in 1885 and 1886. In 1905, Montgomery developed a tandem-wing model that was launched by being dropped from a balloon. It made a few partially-controlled descents, but the chief pilot, Maloney, was killed when the craft went out of control. Montgomery died in 1911 under almost identical circumstances. Only in California would they honor such a liar and fool by naming schools after him.

Mouillard, Louis Pierre (1834-1897)
Louis Mouillard was a French citizen who lived in Egypt. He was a careful observer of bird flight, apparently spending hours watching vultures soar. Mouillard wrote a well-known book L'Empire de l'Air which Octave Chanute translated into English. Mouillard also built a fixed-wing glider that can be seen on his home page. Thanks to Simine Short, we also have a copy of the (heretofore quite rare) Chanute-Mouillard Correspondence online.

Moy, Thomas

Mozhaiski, Alexander Feodorovitch (1825-1890)

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Paulhan, Louis
Phillips, Horatio (1845-1924)

Pilcher, Percy Sinclair (1866-1899)
A British follower of Lilienthal who developed a series of hang gliders. Pilcher usually tested his craft by towing them by rope. Jarrett has written a nice history of him, and feels he was close to developing a lightweight powered hang glider before his death in a gliding accident. Even if true, serious air travel requires large controllable craft, not airplanes where weight is used to alter the trajectory of the craft.

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Robart, Henri
Roe, Alliott Verdon (1877-1958)

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Santos-Dumont, Alberto (1873-1932)
Seux, Edmond
Societe Antoinette

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Tatin, Victor

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Vendome, Raoul
Voisin, Gabriel (1880-??)
Voisin, Charles (1882-1912)
Vuia, Trajan (1872-1950)

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Watson, Preston A. (1881-1915)
Wenham, Francis Herbert (1824-1908)

Whitehead, Gustave (1874-1927)
Recently, people have started to wonder whether Whitehead may have made a "controlled, sustained" flight that predated the Wright brothers. I have my doubts. Even if Whitehead made an extended trip through the friendly skies, it does not seem to me that his craft really had effective solutions to the problems of control. Check out for yourself the control system described in a short Scientific American report in 1901.

Wright, Wilbur (1867-1912) and Orville (1871-1948)
The story of the Wright brothers is long and complex, having more twists of fate than a daytime soap opera. At the heart of the story, we find pure magic -- two plainspoken men solving a mystery as old as humankind itself: How to fashion a chariot of sticks and fabric that could mount the air, carrying us, like the ancient Greek Gods, into the skies.

Wrapped around this magical core is the tale of how society at large greeted this singular invention and the Wrights: first with disbelief, then with wild enthusiasm, and finally, realizing that two men held the legal rights to one of the most important inventions of all time, with second thoughts and rejection. This led, perhaps inevitably, to a dark and unhappy ending.

In my view, the tale has never been told in full in any one single place, and this web site is no exception. Nevertheless, my online bibliography contains many fine books that collectively do a good job of telling this complex tale. Here on this web site, I have collected much of the magical heart of the story, both in the Tale of the Airplane, and in the Biography of the Wright brothers. Don't forget to check out an online simulation of their 1903 flyer, or look over the VRML 3D model. As always, stay tuned for further developments.

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Zens, Ernest and Paul
Zerbe, Jerome
Jerome Zerbe built an early "Multiplane" airplane, including five wings stacked in an odd tandem pattern, that I always make fun of. Now Zerbe has his own developing web site, created by Pete Jordan, that asks the question "eccentric, or beyond the cutting edge?" You be the judge.

Zipfel, Armand

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End notes

The views expressed herein are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employers.

Like most of my site, this area is under active development. Please pardon the incomplete list, and stay tuned for more information