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A History of Aeronautics

A History of Aeronautics
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Title: A History of Aeronautics
Release Date: 2018-11-25
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A HISTORY OF AERONAUTICS

Trial of full-size Langley Aerodrome, 8th December, 1903.

Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

Frontispiece.


A
History of Aeronautics

by
E. CHARLES VIVIAN

WITH A SECTION ON PROGRESS IN
AEROPLANE DESIGN

by
LIEUT.-COL. W. LOCKWOOD MARSH, O.B.E.

NEW YORK
HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY
1921


To
MY WITNESS
OCT. 21ST 1919
V.


vii

FOREWORD

Although successful heavier-than-air flight is lessthan two decades old, and successful dirigible propulsionantedates it by a very short period, the mass of experimentand accomplishment renders any one-volumehistory of the subject a matter of selection. In additionto the restrictions imposed by space limits, the materialfor compilation is fragmentary, and, in many cases,scattered through periodical and other publications.Hitherto, there has been no attempt at furnishing adetailed account of how the aeroplane and the dirigibleof to-day came to being, but each author who has treatedthe subject has devoted his attention to some specialphase or section. The principal exception to this rule—Hildebrandt—wrotein 1906, and a good many ofhis statements are inaccurate, especially with regardto heavier-than-air experiment.

Such statements as are made in this work are, wherepossible, given with acknowledgment to the authoritieson which they rest. Further acknowledgment is dueto Lieut.-Col. Lockwood Marsh, not only for thesection on aeroplane development which he has contributedto the work, but also for his kindly assistanceand advice in connection with the section on aerostation.The author’s thanks are also due to the Royal AeronauticalSociety for free access to its valuable libraryof aeronautical literature, and to Mr A. Vincent Clarkeviiifor permission to make use of his notes on the developmentof the aero engine.

In this work is no claim to originality—it has beena matter mainly of compilation, and some stories, notablythose of the Wright Brothers and of Santos Dumont,are better told in the words of the men themselves thanany third party could tell them. The author claims,however, that this is the first attempt at recording thefacts of development and stating, as fully as is possiblein the compass of a single volume, how flight andaerostation have evolved. The time for a critical historyof the subject is not yet.

In the matter of illustrations, it has been found verydifficult to secure suitable material. Even the officialseries of photographs of aeroplanes in the war periodis curiously incomplete, and the methods of censorshipduring that period prevented any complete series beingprivately collected. Omissions in this respect willprobably be remedied in future editions of the work,as fresh material is constantly being located.

E. C. V.

October, 1920.


ix

CONTENTS

Part I—The Evolution of the Aeroplane
CHAP.   PAGE
I. THE PERIOD OF LEGEND 3
II. EARLY EXPERIMENTS 15
III. SIR GEORGE CAYLEY—THOMAS WALKER 43
IV. THE MIDDLE NINETEENTH CENTURY 56
V. WENHAM, LE BRIS, AND SOME OTHERS 71
VI. THE AGE OF THE GIANTS 83
VII. LILIENTHAL AND PILCHER 95
VIII. AMERICAN GLIDING EXPERIMENTS 107
IX. NOT PROVEN 121
X. SAMUEL PIERPOINT LANGLEY 133
XI. THE WRIGHT BROTHERS 145
XII. THE FIRST YEARS OF CONQUEST 176
XIII. FIRST FLIERS IN ENGLAND 188
XIV. RHEIMS, AND AFTER 199
XV. THE CHANNEL CROSSING 211
XVI. LONDON TO MANCHESTER 217
XVII. A SUMMARY—TO 1911 221
XVIII. A SUMMARY—TO 1914 233
XIX. THE WAR PERIOD—I 246
XX. THE WAR PERIOD—II 259
XXI. RECONSTRUCTION 264
XXII. 1919–1920 270
Part II—1903–1920: Progress in Designx
I. THE BEGINNINGS 277
II. MULTIPLICITY OF IDEAS 289
III. PROGRESS ON STANDARDISED LINES 296
IV. THE WAR PERIOD 306
Part III—Aerostatics
I. BEGINNINGS 317
II. THE FIRST DIRIGIBLES 331
III. SANTOS-DUMONT 342
IV. THE MILITARY DIRIGIBLE 348
V. BRITISH AIRSHIP DESIGN 359
VI. THE AIRSHIP COMMERCIALLY 372
VII. KITE BALLOONS 376
Part IV—Engine Development
I. THE VERTICAL TYPE 383
II. THE VEE TYPE 404
III. THE RADIAL TYPE 417
IV. THE ROTARY TYPE 428
V. THE HORIZONTALLY-OPPOSED ENGINE 440
VI. THE TWO-STROKE CYCLE ENGINE 447
VII. ENGINES OF THE WAR PERIOD 458
  APPENDICES 469
  A SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY OF AERONAUTICS 504

1

Part I
THE EVOLUTION OF THE AEROPLANE


3

I
THE PERIOD OF LEGEND

The blending of fact and fancy which men call legendreached its fullest and richest expression in the goldenage of Greece, and thus it is to Greek mythology thatone must turn for the best form of any legend whichforeshadows history. Yet the prevalence of legendsregarding flight, existing in the records of practicallyevery race, shows that this form of transit was a dreamof many peoples—man always wanted to fly, and imaginedmeans of flight.

In this age of steel, a very great part of the inventivegenius of man has gone into devices intended tofacilitate transport, both of men and goods, and thegrowth of civilisation is in reality the facilitation oftransit, improvement of the means of communication.He was a genius who first hoisted a sail on a boat andsaved the labour of rowing; equally, he who firstharnessed ox or dog or horse to a wheeled vehicle wasa genius—and these looked up, as men have lookedup from the earliest days of all, seeing that the birdshad solved the problem of transit far more completelythan themselves. So it must have appeared, and thereis no age in history in which some dreamers have notdreamed of the conquest of the air; if the caveman hadleft records, these would without doubt have showedthat he, too, dreamed this dream. His main aim,4probably, was self-preservation; when the dinosaurlooked round the corner, the prehistoric bird got outof the way in his usual manner, and prehistoric man—suchof him as succeeded in getting out of the wayafter his fashion—naturally envied the bird, and concludedthat as lord of creation in a doubtful sort of wayhe ought to have equal facilities. He may have tried,like Simon the Magician, and other early experimenters,to improvise those facilities; assuming that he did,there is the groundwork of much of the older legendwith regard to men who flew, since, when history began,legends would be fashioned out of attempts and eventhe desire to fly, these being compounded of somesmall ingredient of truth and much exaggeration andaddition.

In a study of the first beginnings of the art, it isworth while to mention even the earliest of the legendsand traditions, for they show the trend of men’s mindsand the constancy of this dream that has become realityin the twentieth century. In one of the oldest recordsof the world, the Indian classic Mahabarata, it is statedthat ‘Krishna’s enemies sought the aid of the demons,who built an aerial chariot with sides of iron and cladwith wings. The chariot was driven through the skytill it stood over Dwarakha, where Krishna’s followersdwelt, and from there it hurled down upon the citymissiles that destroyed everything on which they fell.’Here is pure fable, not legend, but still a curious forecastof twentieth century bombs from a rigid dirigible.It is to be noted in this case, as in many, that the powerto fly was an attribute of evil, not of good—it was thedemons who built the chariot, even as at Friedrichshavn.Mediæval legend, in nearly every case, attributes flight5to the aid of evil powers, and incites well-disposedpeople to stick to the solid earth—though, curiouslyenough, the pioneers of mediæval times were verylargely of priestly type, as witness the monk ofMalmesbury.

The legends of the dawn of history, however,distribute the power of flight with less of

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