Percy Pilcher

Percy Pilcher, a British inventor and aviator, was born Jan. 16, 1866. Pilcher built and flew his first glider, the Bat, in 1895. The Bat was a hang-glider, like the craft that were being flown in Germany by Otto Lilienthal. Pilcher built and flew three more gliders,...

Wilfred de Fonvielle

Wilfrid de Fonvielle, a French aeronaut and science writer, was born July 24, 1824 (second image). Fonvielle was a political activist when young, taking part in the Revolution of 1848 and being deported to Algeria at one point, where he founded a radical journal. But in the 1860s, he discovered…

Alberto Santos-Dumont

Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian aeronaut, was born July 20, 1873. Of all the early pioneers of aviation, Santo-Dumont is the one least known to Americans, although he is quite a hero in Brazil, and in France. He moved to Paris as a young man and immediately began designing and building…

Sophie Blanchard

Sophie Blanchard, a French balloonist, died July 6, 1819, at the age of 41. When her husband, Jean-Pierre, suffered a heart attack in 1808 and fell from his balloon, dying from his injuries in 1809, Sophie decided to carry on alone, making more than 60 ascents over the next ten years. She specialized in night flights, and she attracted the favorable attention of both Napoleon and King Louis XVIII…