Ask any Brazilian, and you'll be told that this guy did. Alberto Santos-Dumont.was the sixth of eight children, born to a wealthy coffee planter in the state of
. And, although there is still debate as to whether the Wright Brothers or Santos Dumont should be credited with designing the first heavier-than-air craft, all the experts agree that Alberto designed, built, and flew the first practical dirigibles. In so doing, became the first person to demonstrate that controlled and routine flight was possible. And what a routine his was! São Paulo
In those days, before air traffic control, Santos Dumont used to putter around
Paris in his contraptions, gliding along the boulevards at rooftop level and mooring them to convenient hitching posts while he dined, or enjoyed coffee on a terrace, or attended polo matches in the Bois de Boulogne.
On October 19, 1901 a flight he made around the
emerged in a photograph. That image catapulted him into international prominence. Young men of fashion began adopting his high collars and the singed Eiffel Tower hats of which he was so fond. Panama
Caricatures of him began appearing in magazines throughout the world.
In 1904, during a dinner at Maxim's Restaurant, Santos Dumont complained to his friend Louis Cartier about the difficulty of checking his pocket watch while in flight. He needed, he said, an alternative that would allow him to keep both hands on the controls.
But was Alberto Santos Dumont really the man who invented the airplane? Well, that comes down to how you define an airplane. If you define it as “a powered heavier-than-air machine taking off from an ordinary airstrip with a non-detachable landing gear and under its own power” then he undoubtedly was.
The Wright Brothers flew their early contraption farther, longer, and sooner. But the Flyer, as they called it, had to be launched with a catapult.
Driven into despair about the destructive use to which aviation was being put, and feeling guilty about his role as a pioneer of flight, he committed suicide by hanging himself.
He never married.
But, at the time of his death, a framed photo of Aida was found on his desk – beside a vase of flowers.
Leighton - Monday