Santos-Dumont, Alberto

Santos-Dumont, Alberto
b. 20 July 1873 Cabangu, Rocha Dias, Brazil
d. 23 July 1932 d. Santos, Sâo Paulo, Brazil
Brazilian pioneer in airship and aeroplane flights.
Alberto Santos-Dumont, the son of a wealthy Brazilian coffee planter, was sent to Paris to study engineering but developed a passion for flying. After several balloon flights he turned his attention to powered airships. His first small airship, powered by a motorcycle engine, flew in 1898. A series of airships followed and his flights over Paris—and his narrow escapes—generated much public interest. A large cash prize had been offered for the first person to fly from Saint-Cloud around the Eiffel Tower and back inside thirty minutes. Santos-Dumont made two attempts in his airship No. 5, but engine failures caused him to crash, once in a tree and once on a hotel roof. Undismayed, he prepared airship No. 6 and on 19 October 1901 he set out and rounded the Tower, only to suffer yet another engine failure. This time he managed to restart the engine and claim the prize. This flight created a sensation in Paris and beyond. Santos-Dumont continued to create news with a series of airship exploits, and by 1906 he had built a total of fourteen airships. In 1904 Santos-Dumont visited the United States and met Octave Chanute, who described to him the achievements of the Wright brothers. On his return to Paris he set about designing an aeroplane which was unlike any other aeroplane of the period. It had box-kite-like wings and tail, and flew tail-first (a canard) powered by an Antoinette engine at the rear. It was built for him by Gabriel Voisin and was known as the "14 bis" because it was air-tested suspended beneath airship No. 14. It made its first free take-off on 13 September 1906, and then a series of short hops, including one of 220 m (720 ft) which won Santos-Dumont an Aero-Club prize and recognition for the first aeroplane flight in Europe; indeed, it was the first officially witnessed aeroplane flight in the world. Santos-Dumont's most successful aeroplane was his No. 20 of 1909, known as the Demoiselle: a tiny machine popular with sporting pilots. About this time, however, Santos-Dumont became ill and had to abandon his aeronautical activities. Although he had not made any great technical breakthroughs, Santos-Dumont had played a major role in arousing public interest in flying.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Aéro Club de France Grand Prix de l'Aéronautique 1901. Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur 1904.
1904, Dans l'air, Paris; 1904, pub. as My Airships (repub. 1973, New York: Dover).
Further Reading
Peter Wykeham, 1962, Santos-Dumont, A Study in Obsession, London.
F.H.da Costa, c. 1971, Alberto Santos-Dumont, O Pai da Aviaçāo; pub. in English as
Alberto Santos Dumont, Father of Aviation, Rio de Janeiro.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.