"The State of The World" Number 19
Complete Index Of All Issues
Who Was The First To Fly?
Humans have always had a "bird's eye view" of Earth available to them. Simply going up to the top of a hill or mountain, or looking over a cliff, provides the same observation.
But to actually fly like a bird was something that the earliest humans, at least the bravest ones, sought to do. We know that from the many stories and illustrations that still exist.
The painting below is that of the ancient Greek myth of Daedalus who made arm-attached bird wings from feathers and wax for himself and his son Icarus. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too high because the sun would melt the wax that held his wings together. Tragically, the youth did not heed the admonition.
Many other stories were known, as were many illustrations. One from ancient Persia, as shown below, however is particularly curious. Although it's over 2,500 years old, the "bird" seems very metallic and mechanical. The leading edges of the wings seem rigid like metal wings of a modern-day aircraft. It seemingly has wheels for feet, and the passenger, or pilot, seems not to be holding reins, but rather something similar to a control wheel, or yoke.
The modern era of man's flight began in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, first with balloons, and then with engine-powered winged aircraft.
In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers of France, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne, became the first to successfully fly a hot air balloon - and in doing so, also accomplishing the first piloted (i.e. controlled) flight.
In 1890, Clement Ader of France became the first in the world to fly a powered, controlled aircraft with his Avion - a Latin/French word for bird (13 years later, the famous Wright brothers became the first to fly in the U.S.). The English-language word "aviation" itself is from that French name for Ader's aircraft.