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History and Progress of Aerial Locomotion1

Nature volume 63, pages 526527 (28 March 1901) | Download Citation



WHILE history contains no records of any past age in which men rode bicycles, the question of aërial locomotion has occupied the thoughts of man from the days of the Egyptians, to whom we are indebted for a representation of a man with wings considerably resembling the gliding machine on which Mr. Pilcher lost his life. Passing by the legend of Daedalus, whose invention of sailing ships led to the tradition that he attached wings to himself, we find in history numerous records, some such as that of Dante of Perugia or the chronicle of Busbequius, referring to gliding experiments which may not improbably have been authentic, others describing machines by which men have tried to raise themselves by their own exertions, but without success, as exemplified by Besnier, the Marquis de Bacqueville, Jacob Deghen, while a far larger number have been handed down to us of designs of fantastic machines for navigating the air, of a purely visionary character, In the latter category we must include in past times the grotesque figures designed by Barthelemy Lourenco in Portugal, by the novelist Retif de la Bretonne, by Blanchard, before he became noted as a balloonist, and the prospectus of the Minerva issued by one Robertson when interest in ballooning was at its height. Even in recent times equally absurd devices have been promulgated, such as aërial tramcars supported by cigar-shaped gas vessels, not one-hundredth of the size necessary to raise such loads, and seats in such aërial tramcars with cavities filled with gas whose actual lifting power would amount to a few milligrams, and others.

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