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A History of Aeronautics by Marsh and Vivian

Nadar took to ballooning as the means of raising money


Stringfellow died on December 13th, 1883. His place in the history of aeronautics is at least equal to that of Cayley, and it may be said that he laid the foundation of such work as was subsequently accomplished by Maxim, Langley, and their fellows. It was the coming of the internal combustion engine that rendered flight practicable, and had this prime mover been available in John Stringfellow's day the Wright brothers' achievement might have been antedated by half a century.


There are few outstanding events in the development of aeronautics between Stringfellow's final achievement and the work of such men as Lilienthal, Pilcher, Montgomery, and their kind; in spite of this, the later middle decades of the nineteenth century witnessed a considerable amount of spade work both in England and in France, the two countries which led in the way in aeronautical development until Lilienthal gave honour to Germany, and Langley and Montgomery paved the way for the Wright Brothers in America.

Two abortive attempts characterised the sixties of last century in France. As regards the first of these, it was carried out by three men, Nadar, Ponton d'Amecourt, and De la Landelle, who conceived the idea of a full-sized helicopter machine. D'Amecourt exhibited a steam model, constructed in 1865, at the Aeronautical Society's

Exhibition in 1868. The engine was aluminium with cylinders of bronze, driving two screws placed one above the other and rotating in Opposite directions, but the power was not sufficient to lift the model. De la Landelle's principal achievement consisted in the publication in 1863 of a book entitled Aviation which has a certain historical value; he got out several designs for large machines on the helicopter principle, but did little more until the three combined in the attempt to raise funds for the construction of their full-sized machine. Since the funds were not forthcoming, Nadar took to ballooning as the means of raising money; apparently he found this substitute for real flight sufficiently interesting to divert him from the study of the helicopter principle, for the experiment went no further.

The other experimenter of this period, one Count d'Esterno, took out a patent in 1864 for a soaring machine which allowed for alteration of the angle of incidence of the wings in the manner that was subsequently carried out by the Wright Brothers. It was not until 1883 that any attempt was made to put this patent to practical use, and, as the inventor died while it was under construction, it was never completed. D'Esterno was also responsible for the production of a work entitled Du Vol des Oiseaux, which is a very remarkable study of the flight of birds.

Mention has already been made of the founding of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain, which, since 1918 has been the Royal Aeronautical Society. 1866 witnessed the first meeting of the Society under the Presidency of the Duke of Argyll, when in June, at the Society of Arts, Francis Herbert Wenham read his now classic paper Aerial Locomotion. Certain quotations from this will show how clearly Wenham had thought out the problems connected with flight.

'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.

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