# WENHAM ON AERIAL LOCOMOTION.

The following paper, "On Aerial Locomotion and the Laws by which Heavy Bodies impelled through Air are Sustained," was read by F. H. Wenham, Esq., at the first meeting of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain, held on the 27th day of June, 1866. His Grace the Duke of Argyll in the Chair.

The resistance against a surface of a defined area, passing rapidly through yielding media, may be divided into two opposing forces. One arising from the cohesion of the separated particles; and the other from their weight and inertia, which, according to well-known laws, will require a constant power to set them in motion.

In plastic substances, the first condition, that of cohesion, will give rise to the greatest resistance. In water this has very little retarding effect, but in air, from its extreme fluidity, the cohesive force becomes inappreciable, and all resistances are caused by its weight alone; therefore, a weight, suspended from a plane surface, descending perpendicularly in air, is limited in its rate of fall by the weight of air that can be set in motion in a given time.

If a weight of 150 lbs. is suspended from a surface of the same number of square feet, the uniform descent will be 1,300 feet per minute, and the force given out and expended on the air, at this rate of fall, will be nearly six horse-power; and, conversely, this same speed and power must be communicated to the surface to keep the weight sustained at a fixed altitude. As the surface is increased, so does the rate of descent and its accompanying power, expended in a given time, decrease. It might, therefore, be inferred that, with a sufficient extent of surface reproduced, or worked up to a higher altitude, a man might by his exertions raise himself for a time, while the surface descends at a less speed.

A man, in raising his own body, can perform 4,250 units of work ­ that is, this number of pounds raised one foot high per minute ­ and can raise his own weight ­ say, 150 lbs. ­ twenty-two feet per minute. But at this speed the atmospheric resistance is so small that 120,000 square feet would be required to balance his exertions, making no allowance for weight beyond his own body.

We have thus reasons for the failure of the many misdirected attempts that have, from time to time, been made to raise weights perpendicularly in the air by wings or descending surfaces. Though the flight of a bird is maintained by a constant reaction or abutment against an enormous weight of air in comparison with the weight of its own body, yet, as will be subsequently shown, the support upon that weight is not necessarily commanded by great extent of wing-surface, but by the direction of motion.

One of the first birds in the scale of flying magnitude is the pelican. It is seen in the streams and estuaries of warm climates, fish being its only food. On the Nile, after the inundation, it arrives in flocks of many hundreds together, having migrated from long distances. A specimen shot was found to weigh twenty-one pounds, and measured ten feet across the wings, from end to end. The pelican rises with much difficulty, but, once on the wing, appears to fly with very little exertion, notwithstanding its great weight. Their mode of progress is peculiar and graceful. They fly after a leader, in one single train. As he rises or descends, so his followers do the same in succession, imitating his movements precisely. At a distance, this gives them the appearance of a long undulating ribbon, glistening under the cloudless sun of an oriental sky. During their flight they make about seventy strokes per minute with their wings. This uncouth-looking bird is somewhat whimsical in its habits. Groups of them may be seen far above the earth, at a distance from the river-side, soaring, apparently for their own pleasure. With outstretched and motionless wings, they float serenely, high in the atmosphere, for more than an hour together, traversing the same locality in circling movements. With head thrown back, and enormous bills resting on their breasts, they almost seem asleep. A few easy strokes of their wings each minute, as their momentum or velocity diminishes, serves to keep them sustained at the same level. The effort required is obviously slight, and not confirmatory of the excessive amount of power said to be requisite for maintaining the flight of a bird of this weight and size. The pelican displays no symptom of being endowed with great strength, for when only slightly wounded it is easily captured, not having adequate power for effective resistance, but heavily flapping the huge wings, that should, as some imagine, give a stroke equal in vigour to the kick of a horse.

During a calm evening, flocks of spoonbills take their flight directly up the river's course; as if linked together in unison, and moved by the same impulse, they alter not their relative positions, but at less than fifteen inches above the water's surface, they speed swiftly by with ease and grace inimitable, a living sheet of spotless white. Let one circumstance be remarked, ­ though they have fleeted past at a rate of near thirty miles an hour, so little do they disturb the element in which they move, that not a ripple of the placid bosom of the river, which they almost touch, has marked their track. How wonderfully does their progress contrast with that of creatures who are compelled to drag their slow and weary way against the fluid a thousandfold more dense, flowing in strong and eddying current beneath them.

Our pennant droops listlessly, the wished-for north wind cometh not. According to custom we step on shore, gun in hand. A flock of white herons, or "buffalo-birds," almost within our reach, run a short distance from the pathway as we approach them. Others are seen perched in social groups upon the backs of the apathetic and mud-begrimed animals whose name they bear. Beyond the ripening dhourra crops which skirt the river-side, the land is covered with immense numbers of blue pigeons, flying to and fro in shoals, and searching for food with restless diligence. The musical whistle from the pinions of the wood-doves sounds cheerily, as they dart past with the speed of an arrow. Ever and anon are seen a covey of the brilliant, many-coloured partridges of the district, whose long and pointed wings give them a strength and duration of flight that seems interminable, alighting at distances beyond the possibility of marking them down, as we are accustomed to do with their plumper brethren at home. But still more remarkable is the spectacle which the sky presents. As far as the eye can reach it is dotted with birds of prey of every size and description. Eagles, vultures, kites and hawks, of manifold species, down to the small, swallow-like, insectivorous hawk common in the Delta, which skims the surface of the ground in pursuit of its insect prey. None seem bent on going forward, but all are soaring leisurely round over the same locality, as if the invisible element which supports them were their medium of rest as well as motion. But mark that object sitting in solitary state in the midst of yon plain: what a magnificent eagle! An approach to within eighty yards arouses the king of birds from his apathy. He partly opens his enormous wings, but stirs not yet from his station. On gaining a few feet more he begins to walk away, with half-expanded, but motionless wings. Now for the chance fire! A charge of No. 3 from 11 bore rattles audibly but ineffectively upon his densely feathered body; his walk increases to a run, he gathers speed with his slowly-waving wings, and eventually leaves the ground. Rising at a gradual inclination, he mounts aloft and sails majestically away to his place of refuge in the Lybian range, distant at least five miles from where he rose. Some fragments of feathers denote the spot where the shot had struck him. The marks of his claws are traceable in the sandy soil, as, at first with firm and decided digs, he forced his way, but as he lightened his body and increased his speed with the aid of his wings, the imprints of his talons gradually merged into long scratches. The measured distance from the point where these vanished, to the place where he had stood, proved that with all the stimulus that the shot must have given to his exertions, he had been compelled to run full twenty yards before he could raise himself from the earth.

Again the boat is under weigh, though the wind is but just sufficient to enable us to stem the current. An immense kite is soaring overhead, scarcely higher than the top of our lateen yard, affording a fine opportunity for contemplating his easy and unlaboured movements. The cook has now thrown overboard some offal. With a solemn swoop the bird descends and seizes it in his talons. How easily he rises again with motionless expanded wings, the mere force and momentum of his descent serving to raise him again to more than half-mast high. Observe him next, with lazy flapping wings, and head turned under his body; he is placidly devouring the pendant morsel from his foot, and calmly gliding onwards.

The Nile abounds with large aquatic birds of almost every variety. During a residence upon its surface for nine months out of the year, immense numbers have been seen to come and go, for the majority of them are migratory. Egypt being merely a narrow strip of territory, passing through one of the most desert parts of the earth, and rendered fertile only by the periodical rise of the waters of the river, it is probable that these birds make it their grand thoroughfare into the rich districts of Central Africa.

On nearing our own shores, steaming against a moderate head-wind, from a station abaft the wheel the movements of some half-dozen gulls are observed, following in the wake of the ship, in patient expectation of any edibles that may be thrown overboard. One that is more familiar than the rest comes so near at times that the winnowing of his wings can be heard; he has just dropped astern, and now comes on again. With the axis of his body exactly at the level of the eyesight, his every movement can be distinctly marked. He approaches to within ten yards, and utters his wild plaintive note, as he turns his head from side to side, and regards us with his jet black eye. But where is the angle or upward rise of his wings, that should compensate for his descending tendency, in a yielding medium like air? The incline cannot be detected, for, to all appearance, his wings are edgewise, or parallel to his line of motion, and he appears to skim along a solid support. No smooth-edged rails, or steel-tired wheels, with polished axles revolving in well oiled brasses, are needed here for the purpose of diminishing friction, for Nature's machinery has surpassed them all. The retarding effects of gravity in the creature under notice, are almost annulled, for he is gliding forward upon a frictionless plane. There are various reasons for concluding that tie direct flight of many birds is maintained with a much less expenditure of power, for a high speed, than by any mode of progression.

The first subject for consideration is the proportion of surface to weight, and their combined effect in descending perpendicularly through the atmosphere. The datum is here based upon the consideration of safety, for it may sometimes be needful for a living being to drop passively, without muscular effort. One square foot of sustaining surface, for every pound of the total weight, will be sufficient for security.

According to Smeaton's table of atmospheric resistances, to produce a force of one pound on a square foot, the wind must move against the plane (or, which is the same thing, the plane against the wind), at the rate of twenty-two feet per second, or 1,320 feet per minute, equal to fifteen miles per hour. The resistance of the air will now balance the weight on the descending surface, and, consequently, it cannot exceed that speed. Now, twenty-two feet per second is the velocity acquired at the end of a fall of eight feet ­ a height from which a well-knit man or animal may leap down without much risk of injury. Therefore, if a man with parachute weigh together 143 Ibs., spreading the same number of square feet of surface contained in a circle fourteen and a half feet in diameter, he will descend at perhaps an unpleasant velocity, but with safety to life and limb.

It is a remarkable fact how this proportion of wing-surface to weight extends throughout a great variety of the flying portion of the animal kingdom, even down to hornets, bees, and other insects. In some instances, however, as in the gallinaceous tribe, including pheasants, this area is somewhat exceeded, but they are known to be very poor flyers. Residing as they do chiefly on the ground, their wings are only required for short distances, or for raising them or easing their descent from their roosting-places in forest trees, the shortness of their wings preventing them from taking extended flights. The wing-surface of the common swallow is rather more than in the ratio of two square feet per pound, but having also great length of pinion, it is both swift and enduring in its flight. When on a rapid course this bird is in the habit of furling its wings into a narrow compass. The greater extent of surface is probably needful for the continual variations of speed and instant stoppages requisite for obtaining its insect food.

On the other hand, there are some birds, particularly of the duck tribe, whose wing-surface but little exceeds half a square foot, or seventy-two inches per pound, yet they may be classed among the strongest and swiftest of flyers. A weight of one pound, suspended from an area of this extent, would acquire a velocity due to a fall of 16 feet ­ a height sufficient for the destruction or injury of most animals. But when the plane is urged forward horizontally, in a manner analogous to the wings of a bird during flight, the sustaining power is greatly influenced by the form and arrangement of the surface.

In the case of perpendicular descent, as a parachute, the sustaining effect will be much the same, whatever the figure of the outline of the superficies may be, and a circle perhaps affords the best resistance of any. Take for example a circle of 20 square feet (as possessed by the pelican) loaded with as many pounds. This, as just stated, will limit the rate of perpendicular descent to 1,320 feet per minute. But instead of a circle 61 inches in diameter, if the area is bounded by a parallelogram 10 feet long by 2 feet broad, and whilst at perfect freedom to descend perpendicularly, let a force be applied exactly in a horizontal direction, so as to carry it edgeways, with the long side foremost, at a forward speed of 30 miles per hour ­ just double that of its passive descent: the rate of fall under these conditions will be decreased most remarkably, probably to less than one-fifteenth part, or 88 feet per minute, or one mile per hour.

The annexed line represents transversely the plane 2 feet wide and 10 feet long, moving in the direction of the arrow with a forward speed of 30 miles per hour, or 2,640 feet per minute, and descending at 88 feet per minute, the ratio being as 1 to 30. Now, the particles of air, caught by the forward edge of the plane, must be carried down eight-tenths of an inch before they leave it. This stratum, 10 feet wide and 2,640 long, will weigh not less than 134 Ibs.; therefore the weight has continually to be moved downwards, 88 feet per minute, from a state of absolute rest. If the plane, with this weight and an upward rise of eight-tenths of an inch, be carried forward at a rate of 30 miles per hour, it will be maintained at the same level without descending.

The following illustrations, though referring to the action of surfaces in a denser fluid, are yet exactly analogous to the conditions set forth in air: ­

Take a stiff rod of wood, and nail to its end at right angles a thin lath or blade, about two inches wide. Place the rod square across the thwarts of a rowing-boat in motion, letting a foot or more of the blade hang perpendicularly over the side into the water. The direct amount of resistance of the current against the flat side of the blade may thus be felt. Next slide the rod to and fro thwart ship, keeping all square; the resistance will now be found to have increased enormously; indeed, the boat can be entirely stopped by such an appliance. Of course the same experiment may be tried in a running stream.

Another familiar example may be cited in the lee-boards and sliding keels used in vessels of shadow draught, which act precisely on the same principle as the plane or wing-surface of a bird when moving in air. These surfaces, though parallel to the line of the vessel's course, enable her to carry a heavy press of sail without giving way under the side pressure, or making lee-way, so great is their resistance against the rapidly passing body of water, which cannot be deflected sideways at a high speed.

The succeeding experiments will serve further to exemplify the action of the same principle. Fix a thin blade, say one inch wide and one foot long, with its plane exactly midway and at right angles, to the end of a spindle or rod. On thrusting this through a body of water, or immersing it in a stream running in the direction of the axis of the spindle, the resistance will be simply that caused by the water against the mere superficies of the blade. Next put the spindle and blade in rapid rotation. The retarding effect against direct motion will now be increased near tenfold, and is equal to that due to the entire area of the circle of revolution. By trying the effect of blades of various widths, it will be found that, for the purpose of effecting the maximum amount of resistance, the more rapidly the spindle revolves the narrower may be the blade. There is a specific ratio between the width of the blade and its velocity. It is of some importance that this should be precisely defined, not only for its practical utility in determining the best proportion of width to speed in the blades of screw-propellers, but also for a correct demonstration of the principles involved in the subject now under consideration; for it may be remarked that the swiftest-flying birds possess extremely long and narrow wings, and the slow, heavy flyers short and wide ones.

In the early days of the screw-propeller, it was thought requisite, in order to obtain the advantage of the utmost extent of surface, that the end-view of the screw should present no opening, but appear as a complete disc. Accordingly, some were constructed with one or two threads, making an entire or two half-revolutions; but this was subsequently found to be a mistake. In the case of the two blades, the length of the screw was shortened, and consequently the width of the blades reduced, with increased effect, till each was brought down to considerably less than one-sixth of the circumference or area of the entire circle; the maximum speed was then obtained. Experiment has also shown that the effective propelling area of the two-bladed screw is tantamount to its entire circle of revolution, and is generally estimated as such.

Many experiments tried by the author, with various forms of screws, applied to a small steam-boat, led to the same conclusion ­ that the two blades of one-sixth of the circle gave the best result.

All screws reacting on a fluid such as water, must cause it to yield to some extent; this is technically known as "slip," and whatever the ratio or per-centage on the speed of the boat may be, it is tantamount to just so much loss of propelling power ­ this being consumed in giving motion to the water instead of the boat.

On starting the engine of the steam-boat referred to, and grasping a mooring-rope at the stern, it was an easy matter to hold it back with one hand, though the engine was equal in power to five horses, and the screw making more than 500 revolutions per minute. The whole force of the steam was absorbed in "slip," or in giving motion to the column of water; but let her go, and allow the screw to find an abutment on a fresh body of water, not having received a gradual motion, and with its inertia undisturbed when running under full way, the screw worked almost as if in a solid nut, the "slip" amounting to only eleven per cent.

The laws which control the action of inclined surfaces, moving either in straight lines or circles in air, are identical, and serve to show the inutility of attempting to raise a heavy body in the atmosphere by means of rotating vanes or a screw acting vertically; for unless the ratio of surface compared to weight is exceedingly extensive, the whole power will be consumed in "slip," or in giving a downward motion to the column of air. Even if a sufficient force is obtained to keep a body suspended by such means, yet, after the desired altitude is arrived at, no further ascension is required; there the apparatus is to remain stationary as to level, and its position on the constantly yielding support can only be maintained at an enormous expenditure of power, for the screw cannot obtain a hold upon a fresh and unmoved portion of air in the same manner as it does upon the body of water when propelling the boat at full speed; its action under these conditions is the same as when the boat is held fast, in which case, although the engine is working up to its usual rate, the tractive power is almost annulled.

The ratio of weight to sustaining surface was next arranged in the proportion approximating to that of birds. Two of the experiments are here quoted, which gave the most satisfactory result. Weight of wings and shaft, 17 1/2 oz.; area of two wings, 121 inches ­ equal to 110 square inches per pound. The annexed figures are given approximately, in order to avoid decimal fractions: ­

 No. of revolutions per minute. Mean sustaining speed. Miles per hour. Feet per minute. Pitch or angle of rise in one revolution. Inches. Ratio of pitch to speed. Slip per cent. 1st Experiment 210 38 3,360 26 1/8 nearly 12 1/2 2nd Do. 240 44 3,840 15 1/13 Do. 8

The power required to drive was nearly the same in both experiments ­ about equal to one-sixteenth part of a horsepower, or the third part of the strength of a man, as estimated by a constant force on the handle of twelve pounds in the first experiment, and ten in the second, the radius of the handle being five-and-a-half inches, and making seventy revolutions per minute in the first case, and eighty in the other.

These experiments are so far satisfactory in showing the small pitch or angle of rise required for sustaining the weight stated, and demonstrating the principle before alluded to, of the slow descent of planes moving horizontally in the atmosphere at high velocities; but the question remains to be answered, concerning the disposal of the excessive power consumed in raising a weight not exceeding that of a carrier pigeon, for unless this can be satisfactorily accounted for, there is but little prospect of finding an available power, of sufficient energy in its application to the mechanism, for raising apparatus, either experimental or otherwise, in the atmosphere. In the second experiment, the screw-shaft made 240 revolutions, consequently, one vane (there being two) was constantly passing over the same spot 480 times each minute, or eight times in a second. This caused a descending current of air, moving at the rate of near four miles per hour, almost sufficient to blow a candle out placed three feet underneath. This is the result of "slip," and the giving both a downward and rotary motion to this column of air, will account for a great part of the power employed, as the whole apparatus performed the work of a blower. If the wings, instead of travelling in a circle, could have been urged continually forward in a straight line in a fresh and unmoved body of air the "slip" would have been so inconsiderable, and the pitch consequently, reduced to such a small angle, as to add but little to the direct forward atmospheric resistance of the edge.

The small flying screws, sold as toys, are well known. It is an easy matter to determine approximately the force expended in raising and maintaining them in the atmosphere. The following is an example of one constructed of tin-plate with three equidistant vanes. This was spun by means of a cord, wound round a wooden spindle, fitted into a forked handle as usual. The outer end of the coiled string was attached to a small spring steelyard, which served as a handle to pull it out by. The weight, or degree at which the index had been drawn, was afterwards ascertained by the mark left thereon by a pointed brass wire. It is not necessary to know the time occupied in drawing out the string, as this item in the estimate may be taken as the duration of the ascent; for it is evident that if the same force is re-applied at the descent, it would rise again, and a repeated series of these impulses will represent the power required to prolong the flight of the instrument. It is, therefore, requisite to know the length of string, and the force applied in pulling it out. The following are the data:-

 Diameter of screw 8 1/2 inches Weight of ditto 396 grains Length of string drawn out 2 feet Force employed 8 lbs. Duration of flight 16 seconds

From this it may be computed that, in order to maintain the flight of the instrument, a constant force is required of near sixty foot-pounds per minute ­ in the ratio of about three horse-power for each hundred pounds raised by such means. The force is perhaps over-estimated for a larger screw, for as the size and weight is increased, the power required would be less than in this ratio. The result would be more satisfactory if tried with a sheet-iron screw, impelled by a descending weight.

Methods analogous to this have been proposed for attempting aerial locomotion; but experiment has shown that a screw rotating in the air is an imperfect principle for obtaining the means of flight, and supporting the needful weight, for the power required is enormous. Suppose a machine to be constructed, having some adequate supply of force, the screw rotating vertically at a certain velocity will raise the whole. When the desired altitude is obtained, nearly the same velocity of revolution, and the same excessive power, must be continued, and consumed entirely in "slip," or in drawing down a rapid current of air.

If the axis of the screw is slightly inclined from the perpendicular, the whole machine will travel forward. The "slip," and consequently the power, is somewhat reduced under these conditions; but a swift forward speed cannot be effected by such means, for the resistance of the inclined disc of the screw will be very great, far exceeding any form assimilating to the edge of the wing of a bird. But, arguing on the supposition that a forward speed of thirty miles an hour might thus be obtained, even then nearly all the power would be expended in giving an unnecessary and rapid revolution to an immense screw, capable of raising a weight, say of 200 pounds. The weight alone of such a machine must cause it to fail, and every revolution of the screw is a subtraction from the much-desired direct forward speed. A simple narrow blade, or inclined plane, propelled in a direct course at this speed ­ which is amply sufficient for sustaining heavy weights ­ is the best, and, in fact, the only means of giving the maximum amount of supporting power with the least possible degree of "slip," and direct forward resistance. Thousands of examples in Nature testify its success, and show the principle in perfection; ­ apparently the only one, and therefore beyond the reach of amendment, the wing of a bird, combining a propelling and supporting organ in one, each perfectly efficient in its mechanical action.

This leads to the consideration of the amount of power requisite to maintain the flight of a bird. Anatomists state that the pectoral muscles for giving motion to the wings are excessively large and strong; but this furnishes no proof of the expenditure of a great amount of force in the act of flying. The wings are hinged to the body like two powerful levers, and some counteracting force of a passive nature, acting like a spring under tension, must be requisite merely to balance the weight of the bird. It cannot be shown that, while there is no active motion, there is any real exertion of muscular force; for instance, during the time when a bird is soaring with motionless wings. This must be considered as a state of equilibrium, the downward spring and elasticity of the wings serving to support the body; the muscles, in such a case, performing like stretched india-rubber springs would do. The motion or active power required for the performance of flight must be considered exclusive of this.

It is difficult, if not impossible, by any form of dynamometer, to ascertain the precise amount of force given out by the wings of birds; but this is perhaps not requisite in proof of the principle involved, for when the laws governing their movements in air are better understood, it is quite possible to demonstrate by isolated experiments, the amount of power required to sustain and propel a given weight and surface at any speed.

If the pelican referred to as weighing twenty-one pounds, with near the same amount of wing-area in square feet, were to descend perpendicularly, it would fall at the rate of 1,320 feet per minute, being limited to this speed by the resistance of the atmosphere.

The standard generally employed in estimating power is by the rate of descent of a weight. Therefore, the weight of the bird being 21 pounds, which, falling at the above speed will expend a force on the air set in motion nearly equal to one horse (.84 HP.) or that of 5 men; and conversely, to raise this weight again perpendicularly upon a yielding support like air, would require even more power than this expression, which it is certain that a pelican does not possess; nor does it appear that any large bird has the faculty of raising itself on the wing perpendicularly in a still atmosphere. A pigeon is able to accomplish this nearly, mounting to the top of a house in a very narrow compass; but the exertion is evidently severe, and can only be maintained for a short period. For its size, this bird has great power of wing; but this is perhaps far exceeded in the humming-bird, which, by the extremely rapid movements of its pinions, sustains itself for more than a minute in still air in one position. The muscular force required for this feat is much greater than for any other performance of flight. The body of the bird at the time is nearly vertical. The wings uphold the weight, not by striking vertically downwards upon the air, but as inclined surfaces reciprocating horizontally like a screw, but wanting in its continuous rotation in one direction, and, in consequence of the loss arising from rapid alternations of motion, the power required for the flight will exceed that specified in the screw experiment before quoted, viz.: three horse-power for every 100 pounds raised.

We have here an example of the exertion of enormous animal force expended in flight, necessary for the peculiar habits of the bird, and for obtaining its food; but in the other extreme, in large heavy birds, whose wings are merely required for the purposes of migration or locomotion, flight is obtained with the least possible degree of power, and this condition can only be commanded by a rapid straightforward course through the air.

The sustaining power obtained in flight must depend upon certain laws of action and reaction between relative weights; the weight of a bird, balanced, or finding an abutment, against the fixed inertia of a far greater weight of air, continuously brought into action in a given time. This condition is secured, not by extensive surface, but by great length of wing, which, in forward motion, takes a support upon a wide stratum of air, extending transversely to the line of direction.

The pelican, for example, has wings extending out 10 feet. If the limits of motion imparted to the substratum of air, acted upon by the incline of the wing, be assumed as one foot in thickness, and the velocity of flight as 30 miles per hour, or 2,640 feet per minute, the stratum of air passed over in this time will weigh nearly one ton, or 100 times the weight of the body of the bird, thus giving such an enormous supporting power, that the comparatively small weight of the bird has but little effect in deflecting the heavy length of stratum downwards, and, therefore, the higher the velocity of flight the less the amount of "slip," or power wasted in compensation for descent.

As noticed at the commencement of this paper, large birds may be observed to skim close above smooth water without ruffling the surface; showing that during rapid flight the air does not give way beneath them, but approximates towards a solid support.

In all inclined surfaces, moving rapidly through air, the whole sustaining power approaches toward the front edge; and in order to exemplify the inutility of surface alone, without proportionate length of wing, take a plane, ten feet long by two broad, impelled with the narrow end forward, the first twelve or fifteen inches will be as efficient at a high speed in supporting a weight as the entire following portion of the plane, which may be cut off, thus reducing the effective wing-area of a pelican, arranged in this direction, to the totally inadequate equivalent of two-and-a-half square feet.

One of the most perfect natural examples of easy and long-sustained flight is the wandering albatross. "A bird for endurance of flight probably unrivalled. Found over all parts of the Southern Ocean, it seldom rests on the water. During storms, even the most terrific, it is seen now dashing through the whirling clouds, and now serenely floating, without the least observable motion of its outstretched pinions." The wings of this bird extend fourteen or fifteen feet from end to end, and measure only eight-and-a-half inches across the broadest part. This conformation gives the bird such an extraordinary sustaining power, that it is said to sleep on the wing during stormy weather, when rest on the ocean is impossible. Rising high in the air, it skims slowly down, with absolutely motionless wings, till a near approach to the waves awakens it, when it rises again for another rest.

If the force expended in actually sustaining a long-winged bird upon a wide and unyielding stratum of air, during rapid flight, is but a small fraction of its strength, then nearly the whole is exerted in overcoming direct forward resistance. In the pelican referred to, the area of the body, at its greatest diameter, is about 100 square inches; that of the pinions, eighty. But as the contour of many birds during flight approximates nearly to Newton's solid of least resistance, by reason of this form, acting like the sharp bows of a ship, the opposing force against the wind must be reduced down to one third or fourth part; this gives one-tenth of a horse-power, or about half the strength of a man, expended during a flight of thirty miles per hour. Judging from the action of the living bird when captured, it does not appear to be more powerful than here stated.

The transverse area of a carrier pigeon during flight (including the outstretched wings) a little exceeds the ratio of twelve square inches for each pound, and the wing-surface, or sustaining area, ninety square inches per pound.

Experiments have been made to test the resisting power of conical bodies of various forms, in the following manner: ­ A thin lath was placed horizontally, so as to move freely on a pivot set midway; at one end of the lath a circular card was attached, at the other end a sliding clip traversed, for holding paper cones, having their bases the exact size of the opposite disc. The instrument acted like a steelyard; and when held against the wind, the paper cones were adjusted at different distances from the centre, according to their forms and angles, in order to balance the resistance of the air against the opposing flat surface. The resistance was found to be diminished nearly in the ratio that the height of the cone exceeded the diameter of base.

It might be expected that the pull of the string of a flying kite should give some indication of the force of inclined surfaces acting against a current of air; but no correct data can be obtained in this way. The incline of the kite is far greater than ever appears in the case of the advancing wing-surface of a bird. The tail is purposely made to give steadiness by a strong pull backwards from the action of the wind, which also exerts considerable force on the suspended cord, which for more than half its length hangs nearly perpendicularly. But the kite, as a means of obtaining unlimited lifting and tractive power, in certain cases where it might be usefully applied, seems to have been somewhat neglected. For its power of raising weights, the following quotation is taken from Vol. XLI. of the Transactions of the Society of Arts, relating to Captain Dansey's mode of communicating with a lee-shore. The kite was made of a sheet of holland exactly nine feet square, extended by two spars placed diagonally, and as stretched spread a surface of fifty-five square feet. "The kite, in a strong breeze, extended 1,100 yards of line five-eighths in circumference, and would have extended more had it been at hand. It also extended 360 yards of line, one and three-quarters of an inch in circumference, weighing sixty pounds. The holland weighed three and a half pounds; the spars, one of which was armed at the head with iron spikes, for the purpose of mooring it, six and three-quarter pounds; and the tail was five times its length, composed of eight pounds of rope and fourteen of elm plank, weighing together twenty-two pounds."

We have here the remarkable fact of ninety-two and a quarter pounds carried by a surface of only fifty-five square feet.

As all such experiments bear a very close relation to the subject of this paper, it may be suggested that a form of kite should be employed for reconnoitring and exploring purposes, in lieu of balloons held by ropes. These would be torn to pieces in the very breeze that would render a kite most serviceable and safe. In the arrangement there should be a smaller and upper-kite, capable of sustaining the weight of the apparatus. The lower kite should be as nearly as practicable in the form of a circular flat plane, distended with ribs, with a car attached beneath like a parachute. Four guy-ropes leading to the car would be required for altering the angle of the plane-vertically with respect to the horizon, and laterally relative to the direction of the wind. By these means the observer couId regulate his altitude, so as to command a view of a country in a radius of at least twenty miles; he could veer to a great extent from side to side, from the wind's course, or lower himself gently, with the choice of a suitable spot for descent. Should the cord break, or the wind fail, the kite would, in either case, act as a parachute, and as such might be purposely detached from the cord, which then being sustained from the upper kite, could be easily recovered. The direction of descent could be commanded by the guy-ropes, these being hauled taut in the required direction for landing.

The author has good reasons for believing that there wouId be less risk associated with the employment of this apparatus, than the reconnoitring balloons that have now frequently been made use of in warfare.1

The wings of all flying creatures, whether of birds, bats, butterflies, or other insects, have this one peculiarity of structure in common. The front, or leading edge, is rendered rigid by bone, cartilage, or a thickening of the membrane; and in most birds of perfect flight, even the individual feathers are formed upon the same condition. In consequence of this, when the wing is waved in air, it gives a persistent force in one direction, caused by the elastic reaction of the following portion of the edge. The fins and tails of fishes act upon the same principle. In the most rapid swimmers these organs are termed "lobated and pointed." The tail extends out very wide transversely to the body, so that a powerful impulse is obtained against a wide stratum of water, on the condition before explained. This action is imitated in Macintosh's screw-propeller, the blade of which is made of thin steel, so as to be elastic. While the vessel is stationary, the blades are in a line with the keel, but during rotation they bend on one side, more or less, according to the speed and degree of propulsion required, and are thus self-compensating; and could practical difficulties be overcome, would prove to be a form of propeller perfect in theory.

In the flying mechanism of beetles there is a difference of arrangement. When the elytra, or wing-cases, are opened, they are checked by a stop, which sets them at a fixed angle. It is probable that these serve as "aeroplanes," for carrying the weight of the insect, while the delicate membrane that folds beneath acts more as a propelling than a supporting organ. A beetle cannot fly with the elytra removed.

The wing of a bird, or bat, is both a supporting and propelling organ, and flight is performed in a rapid course, as follows: ­ During the down-stroke it can be easily imagined how the bird is sustained; but in the up-stroke, the weight is also equally well supported, for in raising the wing, it is slightly inclined upwards against the rapidly passing air, and as this angle is somewhat in excess of the motion due to the raising of the wing, the bird is sustained as much during the up as the down-stroke ­ in fact, though the wing may be rising, the bird is still pressing against the air with a force equal to the weight of its body. The faculty of turning up the wing may be easily seen when a large bird alights; for after gliding down its aerial gradient, on its approach to the ground it turns up the plane of its wing against the air; this checks its descent, and it lands gently.

It has before been shown how utterly inadequate the mere perpendicular impulse of a plane is found to be in supporting a weight, when there is no horizontal motion at the time. There is no material weight of air to be acted upon, and it yields to the slightest force, however great the velocity of impulse may be. On the other hand, suppose that a large bird, in full flight, can make forty miles per hour, or 3,520 feet per minute, and performs one stroke per second. Now, during every fractional portion of that stroke, the wing is acting upon and obtaining an impulse from a fresh and undisturbed body of air; and if the vibration of the wing is limited to an arc of two feet, this by no means represents the small force of action that would be obtained when in a stationary position, for the impulse is secured upon a stratum of fifty-eight feet in length of air at each stroke. So that the conditions of weight of air for obtaining support equally well apply to weight of air, and its reaction in producing forward impulse.

So necessary is the acquirement of this horizontal speed, even in commencing flight, that most heavy birds, when possible, rise against the wind, and even run at the top of their speed to make their wings available, as in the example of the eagle, mentioned at the commencement of this paper. It is stated that the Arabs, on horseback, can approach near enough to spear these birds, when on the plain, before they are able to rise: their habit is to perch on an eminence, where possible.

The tail of a bird is not necessary for flight. A pigeon can fly perfectly with this appendage cut short off: it probably performs an important function in steering, for it is to be remarked, that most birds that have either to pursue or evade pursuit are amply provided with this organ.

The foregoing reasoning is based upon facts, which tend to show that the flight of the largest and heaviest of all birds is really performed with but a small amount of force, and that man is endowed with sufficient muscular power to enable him also to take individual and extended flights, and that success is probably only involved in a question of suitable mechanical adaptations. But if the wings are to be modelled in imitation of natural examples, but very little consideration will serve to demonstrate its utter impracticability when applied in these forms. The annexed diagram, Fig. 1, would be about the proportions needed for a man of medium weight. The wings, a a, must extend out sixty feet from end to end, and measure four feet across the broadest part. The man, b, should be in a horizontal position, encased in a strong framework, to which the wings are hinged at c c. The wings must be stiffened by elastic ribs, extending back from the pinions. These must be trussed by a thin band of steel, e e, Fig. 2, for the purpose of diminishing the weight and thickness of the spar. At the front, where the pinions are hinged, there are two levers attached, and drawn together by a spiral spring, d, Fig. 2, the tension of which is sufficient to balance the weight of the body and machine, and cause the wings to be easily vibrated by the movement of the feet acting on treadles. This spring serves the purpose of the pectoral muscles in birds. But with all such arrangements the apparatus must fail ­ length of wing is indispensable! and a spar thirty feet long must be strong, heavy, and cumbrous; to propel this alone through the air, at a high speed, would require more power than any man could command.

In repudiating all imitations of natural wings, it does not follow that the only channel is closed in which flying mechanism may prove successful. Though birds do fly upon definite mechanical principles, and with a moderate exertion of force, yet the wing must necessarily be a vital organ and member of the living body. It must have a marvellous self-acting principle of repair, in case the feathers are broken or torn; it must also fold up in a small compass, and form a covering for the body.

These considerations bear no relation to artificial wings; so in designing a flying-machine, any deviations are admissible, provided the theoretical conditions involved in flight are borne in mind.

Having remarked how thin a stratum of air is displaced beneath the wings of a bird in rapid flight, it follows that in order to obtain the necessary length of plane of supporting heavy weights, the surfaces may be superposed, or placed in parallel rows, with an interval between them. A dozen pelicans may fly one above the other without mutual impediment, as if framed together; and it is thus shown how two hundred weight may be supported in a transverse distance of only ten feet.

In order to test this idea, six bands of stiff paper, three feet long and three inches wide, were stretched at a slight upward angle, in a light rectangular frame, with an interval of three inches between them, the arrangement resembling an open Venetian blind. When this was held against a breeze, the lifting power was very great, and even by running with it in a calm it required much force to keep it down. The success of this model led to the construction of one of a sufficient size to carry the weight of a man. Fig. 3 represents the arrangement. a a is a thin plank, tapered at the outer ends, and attached at the base to a triangle, b, made of similar plank, for the insertion of the body. The boards, a a, were trussed with thin bands of iron, c c, and at the ends were vertical rods, d d. Between these were stretched five bands of holland, fifteen inches broad and sixteen feet long, the total length of the web being eighty feet. This was taken out after dark into a wet piece of meadow land, one November evening, during a strong breeze, wherein it became quite unmanageable. The wind acting upon the already tightly stretched webs, their united pull caused the central boards to bend considerably, with a twisting, vibratory motion. During a lull, the head and shoulders were inserted in the triangle, with the chest resting on the base board. A sudden gust caught up the experimenter, who was carried some distance from the ground, and the affair falling over sideways, broke up the right-hand set of webs.

In all new machines we gain experience by repeated failures, which frequently form the stepping-stones to ultimate success. The rude contrivance just described (which was but the work of a few hours) had taught, first, that the webs, or aeroplanes, must not be distended in a frame, as this must of necessity be strong and heavy, to withstand their combined tension; second, that the planes must be made so as either to furl or fold up, for the sake of portability.

In order to meet these conditions, the following arrangement was afterwards tried: ­ a a, Figs. 4 and 5, is the main spar, sixteen feet long, half an inch thick at the base, and tapered, both in breadth and thickness, to the end; to this spar was fastened the panels b b, having a base-board for the support of the body. Under this, and fastened to the end of the main spar, is a thin steel tie-band, e e, with struts starting from the spar. This served as the foundation of the superposed aeroplanes, and, though very light, was found to be exceedingly strong; for when the ends of the spar were placed upon supports, the middle bore the weight of the body without any strain or deflection; and further, by a separation at the base-board, the spar's could be folded back, with a hinge, to half their length. Above this were arranged the aeroplanes, consisting of six webs of thin holland, fifteen inches broad; these were kept in parallel planes, by vertical divisions, two feet wide, of the same fabric, so that when distended by a current of air, each two feet of web pulled in opposition to its neighbour; and finally at the ends (which were each sewn over laths), a pull due to only two feet had to be counteracted, instead of the strain arising from the entire length, as in the former experiment. The end-pull was sustained by vertical rods, sliding through loops on the transverse ones at the ends of the webs, the whole of which could fall flat on the spar, till raised and distended by a breeze. The top was stretched by a lath, f, and the system kept vertical by staycords, taken from a bowsprit carried out in front, shown in Fig. 6. All the front edges of the aeroplanes were stiffened by bands of crinoline steel. This series was for the supporting arrangement, being equivalent to a length of wing of ninety-six feet. Exterior to this, two propellers were to be attached, turning on spindles just above the back. They are kept drawn up by a light spring, and pulled down by cords or chains, running over pulleys in the panels b b, and fastened to the end of a swivelling cross-yoke, sliding on the base-board. By working this cross-piece with the feet, motion will be communicated to the propellers, and by giving a longer stroke with one foot than the other, a greater extent of motion will be given to the corresponding propeller, thus enabling the machine to turn, just as oars are worked in a rowing boat. The propellers act on the same principle as the wing of a bird or bat: their ends being made of fabric, stretched by elastic ribs, a simple waving motion up and down will give a strong forward impulse. In order to start, the legs are lowered beneath the base-board, and the experimenter must run against the wind.

An experiment recently made with this apparatus developed a cause of failure. The angle required for producing the requisite supporting power was found to be so small, that the crinoline steel would not keep the front edges in tension. Some of them were borne downwards and more on one side than the other, by the operation of the wind, and this also produced a strong fluttering motion in the webs, destroying the integrity of their plane surfaces, and fatal to their proper action.

Another arrangement has since been constructed, having laths sewn in both edges of the webs, which are kept permanently distended by cross-stretchers. All these planes are hinged to a vertical central board, so as to fold back when the bottom ties are released, but the system is much heavier than the former one, and no experiments of any consequence have as yet been tried with it.

It may be remarked that although a principle is here defined, yet considerable difficulty is experienced in carrying the theory into practice. When the wind approaches to fifteen or twenty miles per hour, the lifting power of these arrangements is all that is requisite, and, by additional planes, can be increased to any extent; but the capricious nature of the ground-currents is a perpetual source of trouble.

Great weight does not appear to be of much consequence, if carried in the body; but the aeroplanes and their attachments seem as if they were required to be very light, otherwise, they are awkward to carry, and impede the movements in running and making a start. In a dead calm, it is almost impracticable to get sufficient horizontal speed, by mere running alone, to raise the weight of the body. Once off the ground, the speed must be an increasing one, if continued by suitable propellers. The small amount of experience as yet gained, appears to indicate that if the aeroplanes could be raised in detail, like a superposed series of kites, they would first carry the weight of the machine itself, and next relieve that of the body.

Until the last few months no substantial attempt has been made to construct a flying-machine, in accordance with the principle involved in this paper, which was written seven years ago. The author trusts that he has contributed something towards the elucidation of a new theory, and shown that the flight of a bird in its performance does not require that enormous amount of force usually supposed, and that in fact birds do not exert more power in flying than quadrupeds in running, but considerably less; for the wing movements of a large bird, travelling at a far higher speed in air, are very much slower; and, where weight is concerned, great velocity of action in the locomotive organs is associated with great force.

It is to be hoped that further experiments will confirm the correctness of these observations, and with a sound working theory upon which to base his operations, man may yet command the air with the same facility that birds now do.

The CHAIRMAN: "I think the paper just read is one of great interest and importance, especially as it points out the true mechanical explanation of the curious problem, as to how and why it is that birds of the most powerful flight always have the longest and narrowest wings. I think it quite certain, that if the air is ever to be navigated, it will not be by individual men flying by means of machinery; but that it is quite possible vessels may be invented, which will carry a number of men, and the motive force of which will not be muscular action. We must first ascertain clearly the mechanical principles upon which flight is achieved; and this is a subject which has scarcely ever been investigated in a scientific spirit. In fact, you will see in our best works of science, by the most distinguished men, the account given of the anatomy of birds is, that a bird flies by inflating itself with warm air, by which it becomes buoyant, like a balloon. The fact is, however, that a bird is never buoyant. A bird is immensely heavier than the air. We all know that the moment a bird is shot it falls to the earth; and it must necessarily do so, because one of the essential mechanical principles of flight is weight, without it there can be no momentum, and no motive force capable of moving through atmospheric currents.

"Until I read Mr. Wenham's paper, a few weeks since, I was puzzled by the fact, that birds with long and very narrow wings seem to be not only as efficient fliers, but much more efficient fliers than birds with very large, broad wings. If you observe the flight of the common heron ­ which is a bird with a very large wing, disposed rather in breadth than in length ­ you will notice that it is exceedingly slow, and that it has a very heavy, flapping motion. The common swallow, on the other hand, is provided with a long and narrow wing, and I never understood how it was that long-winged birds, such as these, achieved so rapid a flight, until I read Mr. Wenham's paper. Although I do not profess to be able to follow the elaborate calculations which he has laid before us, I think I now understand the explanation he has given. His explanation of the action of narrow wings upon the air is, that it is precisely like the action of the narrow vanes of the ship's screw in water, and that the resisting power of the screw is the same, or nearly the same, whether you have the total area of revolution covered by solid surface, or traversed by long and narrow vanes in rotation.

"If Mr. Wenham's explanation be nearly correct, that supposing this implement (referring to a model) to be carried forward by some propelling power, the sustaining force of the whole area is simply the sustaining force of the narrow band in front. This, however, is a matter which will have to be decided by experiment. It certainly appears to explain the phenomena of the flight of birds. There are one or two observations in the paper I do not quite agree with. Although I have studied the subject for many years, I have not arrived at Mr. Wenham's conclusion that the upward stroke of a bird's wing has precisely the same effect as a downward stroke in sustaining. An upward stroke has a contrary effect to the downward stroke; it has a propelling power certainly, but I believe that the sustaining power of a bird's flight is due entirely to the downward stroke. I should be glad to hear what Mr. Wenham may have to say upon this. My belief is, that an upward stroke must have, so far as sustaining is concerned, a reverse action to the downward stroke.

"Then with regard to another observation of Mr. Wenham's, that the tails of birds are used as rudders. I believe this to be an entire mistake; for if the tail of a bird could have the slightest effect in guiding, the vane of it must be disposed perpendicularly, and not horizontally, or nearly so, as at present.

"If you cut off the tail of a pigeon, you will find that he can fly and turn perfectly well without it. He may be a little awkward about it at first, but that is because he has lost his balancing power. We all know that it is a common thing to see a sparrow without his tail, therefore, I do not in the least believe that tails have any effect in guiding. They have an important effect in stopping progress, and, undoubtedly, that is one of the necessary elements of turning. If a bird comes close over your head, and is frightened, you will find his claws distended and his tail spread out as a fan, to stop the momentum of his flight. These are the two only observations with which I cannot agree; but as regards the explanation he has given as to the resistance offered by long and narrow wings, he has made an important discovery."

Mr. WENHAM: "With regard to the wing not affording support to the bird during the upward stroke, some of the largest birds move their wings slowly, that is, with a less number than sixty strokes per minute. Now, as a body free to fall must descend fifteen feet in one second, whether in horizontal motion or not, it appears clear to me that there must be some counteracting effect to prevent this fall. When the wing has reached the limit of the down-stroke, it is inclined upwards in the direction of motion, consequently the rush of air caused by the forward speed, weight, and momentum of the bird against the under surface of the wing, supports the weight, even though the wing is rising in the up-stroke at the time. In corroboration of my theory, I will read an extract from Sir George Cayley, who made a large number of experiments. He says, in page 83, of Vol. xxv., 'Nicholson's Journal': ­ 'The stability in this position, arising from the centre of gravity, being below the point of suspension, is aided by a remarkable circumstance that experiment alone could point out. In very acute angles with the current, it appears that the centre of resistance in the sail does not coincide with the centre of its surface, but is considerably in front of it. As the obliquity of the current decreases, these centres approach and coincide when the current becomes perpendicular to the plane, hence any heel of the machine backwards or forwards removes the centre of support behind or before the point of suspension.'

"From this discovery, it seems remarkable that Sir George Cayley, finding that at high speeds with very oblique incidences the supporting effect became transferred to the front edge, the idea should not have occurred to him that a narrow plane, with its long edge in the direction of motion, would have been equally effective. I may give another illustration. We all know, from our schoolboy experience, that ice which would not be safe to stand upon, is found to be quite strong enough to bear heavy bodies passing over it, so long as rapid motion is kept up, and then it will not even crack. We know, also, that in driving through a marshy part of road, in which you expect the wheels to sink in up to the axles, you may pass over much more easily by increasing the speed. In both these examples there is a greater weight passed over in a given time, and consequently a better support obtained. The ice will not become deflected; neither has the mud time to give way. At a slow speed the same effect may be obtained by extending the breadth of the wheel. Thus, suppose an ordinary wheel to sink ten inches, if you double this width it will sink only five inches; and so on, until by extending the wheel into a long roller you may pass over a quicksand with perfect safety. Now, Nature has carried out this principle in the long wings of birds, and in the albatross it is seen in perfection."