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The beginning of the 20th century was a time of great hope and innovation in Europe. There was a growing sense of excitement as people began to marvel at the possibilities offered by technology. In this setting, a few pioneers began to prove that flight in winged machines was more than a far-off fantasy, laying the foundation of an adventure that continues today.
Zeppelin, the first-ever rigid airship
Equipped with Daimler Benz engines, the LZ-1 made its maiden flight over Lake Constance on 2 July 1900, setting the stage for a long line of rigid airships that brought commercial air travel to the world.
Lilian Todd And her flying machine
E. Lilian Todd, born in Washington, D.C. in 1865, was a self-taught inventor and the first woman to design planesView story
The world’s most famous equation
In 1905, a young German physicist published a paper entitled “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”. In it Albert Einstein proposed his special theory of relativity, including the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc². He went on to develop the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics.
A Zeppelin was a type of rigid airship named after its inventor, the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who pioneered rigid airship development at the beginning of the 20th century. Count Zeppelin was a German general and aircraft manufacturer.
The funny side of the Moon
1902 saw the release of the French silent film 'A Trip to the Moon', directed by Georges Méliès. Based on sources including the novels of Jules Verne, it is widely regarded as the first science fiction film and the image of a spaceship lodged in the Moon’s eye has become iconic.
Born in Paris in 1880, Louis Breguet built a predecessor of the helicopter with his compatriot Professor Richet, calling it a Gyroplane. It took off on 29 September, 1907, stabilised by four people holding it. During World War I, his Breguet XIV reconnaissance aircraft was used by the Allied Forces, and 8,000 models were built before the end of the war. Breguet, who was an early advocate of pre-flight testing, also co-founded the Compagnie des Messageries Aériennes, the predecessor of Air France, and played a decisive role in rebuilding the French aeronautics industry after World War II.
Powered flighttakes off1901
Who was first?
While the automobile was becoming a more common sight on the roads, the first leaps in aviation were being taken by early pioneers. As with any great period in history, there is still some debate about the facts. Although the Wright brothers can lay claim to the first documented powered flight in 1903, there is evidence to suggest that two other inventors, the Frenchman Clément Ader and the German-born Gustav Weisskopf, might have flown in 1901.
Raymonde de Laroche The indomitable Baroness
Raymonde de Laroche, born in Paris in 1882, was the first woman in the world to receive a pilot’s licenceView story
The Caudron A was designed to fit two engines, which the Caudron brothers never received. So they harnessed their plane to a horse instead, urging it into a fast gallop to achieve their first successful trial flight.
Telefunken 10kW Quenched-Spark Radio Transmitter
By 1900 Morse code had become established, but being able to transmit voices proved difficult. In 1903, radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi completed the first transatlantic transmission. Other companies developed the idea further, such as Germany’s Telefunken which was founded in 1903. In 1906, the Nauen transmitter station near Berlin was built, the oldest transmitting installation in the world. Finally, this led the way to true two-way communication. Today, Airbus pioneers laser transmissions of images with the SpaceDataHighway.View more
Henry Farman was the first person to fly a one-kilometre circuit in a Voisin-Farman aircraft. His own construction, the HF1, first took to the skies on 6 April, 1909, exactly two months after his brother Maurice’s MF1 aircraft had completed its first flight.
Gaston and René Caudron
Enthusiasts of the Wright brothers’ achievements, Gaston and René Caudron built their first airplane – Caudron A – in 1908 and two years later they set up workshops and a flying school. They also built the Caudron G.3, which began series production for the French Army in 1914. Caudron aircraft performed several astounding feats, including landing on the summit of Mont Blanc and on the roof of the Galeries Lafayette department store.
Financed by the aviation patron Ernest Archdeacon, this design by French pioneer aviators Louis Blériot and Gabriel Voisin flew 150 metres.
Crossing the English ChannelNo country is an island1909
It started at the Grand Palais…
The Paris Air Show, the world’s oldest, first opened its doors in 1909. Originally part of the 1908 Paris Motor Show, the first dedicated air show was held a year later from 25 September to 17 October at the Grand Palais. The 2015 edition attracted nearly 150,000 trade visitors and over 200,000 members of the general public. The show is held in alternate years to the UK’s Farnborough International Airshow and the ILA Berlin Air Show.
The Blériot XI was the first aircraft to cross the English Channel, a milestone that turned it into the most successful aircraft of the pre-World War I period. With around 1,400 units built, Blériot not only laid the foundation for the French aviation industry, but also put an aircraft into mass production for the first time in history.
Before the plumbing brothers and way before Pokémon Go, Nintendo was a playing cards maker. Founded in 1889, it became the first Japanese company to produce Western-style cards in the early 1900s, before eventually going on to make electronic toys and videogames.
Louis Blériot was a French aviator, inventor and engineer. Initially working for Gabriel Voisin, he made a departure from biplanes and built a monoplane with a forward-mounted horizontal stabiliser. He set up his own aircraft construction company and achieved worldwide fame in 1909, when he became the first pilot to cross the English Channel in a powered, fixed-wing aircraft, the Blériot XI. During World War I he built fighter biplanes and in 1915 founded the Blériot Aeronautique factory at Suresnes, close to Paris.
The path to success
In 1909, the English Channel had already been crossed by balloon, but just six years after the Wright brothers’ first flight, few people expected someone to make the trip by plane. Indeed, the 'Daily Mail' newspaper offered a £1,000 prize to the first person to make the 37km flight. That person was French pioneer Louis Blériot, aboard his Blériot XI monoplane, proving that the sea was not the only way to get to England anymore.Video
Crossing the Channel Reliving history
While Louis Bleriot’s English Channel crossing helped to invent the aerial age, Didier Esteyne’s flight unveiled the potential of electric aviationView story