National Geographic : 1907 Jan
VOL. XVIII, No. I WASHINGTON JANUARY, 1907 THE LI7G ATIK AIL ZZ ffl OBAIPIIID o _ MAGAZENB AERIAL LOCOMOTION With a Few Notes of Progress in the Construction of an Aerodrome* BY ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL FORMERLY PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY THE history of aerial locomotion is full of tragedies, and this is specially true where flying-ma chines are concerned. Men have gone up in balloons, and most of them have come down safely. Men have launched themselves into the air on wings, and most have met with disaster to life or limb. There have been centuries of effort to produce a machine that should fly like a bird, and carry a man whithersoever he willed through the air; and previously to 1783, the year sacred to the memory of the brothers Montgolfier, all experiments at aerial locomotion had this end exclu sively in view. Then came a period when the conquest of the air was sought through the agency of balloons. For more than one hun dred years the efforts of experimenters were chiefly directed to the problem of rendering the balloon dirigible; and the earlier experiments with gliding ma chines, and artificial wings, and the pro jects of men to drive heavy bodies through the air by means of propellers were largely forgotten. The balloon was changed from its original spherical form to a shape better adapted for propulsion; and at last, through the efforts of Santos Dumont, we have arrived at the dirigible balloon of today. But in spite of the dirigibility of the modern balloon, it has so far been found impracticable to impart to this frail structure a velocity sufficient to enable it to make headway against anything but the mildest sort of wind. The character of the balloon problem has therefore changed. Velocity of propul sion rather than dirigibility is now the chief object of research. THE BIRDS ARE ONCE MORE RECOGNIZED AS THE TRUE MODELS OF FLIGHT It has long been recognized by a grow ing school of thinkers that an aerial vehicle, in order to cope with the wind, should be specifically heavier than the air through which it moves. This position is supported by the fact that all of Na- *An address read before the Washington Academy of Sciences, December 13, 1906, and specially revised by Dr Bell for publication in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE.