This volume covers the impact of aerodynamic development on the evolution of the airplane in America. Just as the airplane is a defining technology of the twentieth century, aerodynamics has been the defining element of the airplane.
Airplane travel is surely one of the most significant technological achievements of the last century. The impact of the airplane goes far beyond the realm of the history of technology and touches upon virtually every aspect of society, from economics to politics to engineering and science. While space exploration often claims more public glory than aeronautics research, many more individuals have been able to fly within the Earth’s atmosphere than above it. Thus, aeronautics and air travel have had an enormous practical impact on many more individuals.
For this reason, if no other, it is certainly an appropriate time to document the rich legacy of aeronautical achievements that has permeated our society. It is especially timely to do so during the centennial anniversary of the Wright brothers’ historic flight of 1903. Dr. James R. Hansen and his collaborators do more than just document the last century of flight. They go back and expertly trace the historical origins of what made the first heavier-than-air, controlled, powered airplane flight possible on 17 December 1903. Some names covered in this volume, such as Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci, are familiar to even the most casual reader. Other heralded, but less well-known, early pioneers of flight such as George Cayley, Otto Lilienthal, Theodore von Kármán, and Theodore Theodorsen will come alive to readers through their original letters, memos, and other primary documents as they conjoin with the authors’ insightful and elegantly written essays.