Alphonse Pénaud

Alphonse Pénaud, a French aviation pioneer, was born May 31, 1850. In the early 1870s, Pénaud began building model aircraft powered by twisted rubber cords, the first to use what we would call a rubber-band motor. In 1871, he flew a model aircraft in the Tuileries for...

Eugène Farcot

Henri-Eugène-Adrien Farcot, a French clockmaker and balloonist, was born Feb. 20, 1830. In 1855, Farcot began producing beautiful conical pendulum clocks.  Ordinary pendulum clocks had been invented by Christiaan Huygens in 1656, and by ordinary, we mean that the...

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…