Stringfellow, John

SUBJECT AREA: Aerospace
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b. 6 December 1799 Sheffield, England
d. 13 December 1883 Chard, England
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English inventor and builder of a series of experimental model aeroplanes.
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After serving an apprenticeship in the lace industry, Stringfellow left Nottingham in about 1820 and moved to Chard in Somerset, where he set up his own business. He had wide interests such as photography, politics, and the use of electricity for medical treatment. Stringfellow met William Samuel Henson, who also lived in Chard and was involved in lacemaking, and became interested in his "aerial steam carriage" of 1842–3. When support for this project foundered, Henson and Stringfellow drew up an agreement "Whereas it is intended to construct a model of an Aerial Machine". They built a large model with a wing span of 20 ft (6 m) and powered by a steam engine, which was probably the work of Stringfellow. The model was tested on a hillside near Chard, often at night to avoid publicity, but despite many attempts it never made a successful flight. At this point Henson emigrated to the United States. From 1848 Stringfellow continued to experiment with models of his own design, starting with one with a wing span of 10 ft (3m). He decided to test it in a disused lace factory, rather than in the open air. Stringfellow fitted a horizontal wire which supported the model as it gained speed prior to free flight. Unfortunately, neither this nor later models made a sustained flight, despite Stringfellow's efficient lightweight steam engine. For many years Stringfellow abandoned his aeronautical experiments, then in 1866 when the (Royal) Aeronautical Society was founded, his interest was revived. He built a steam-powered triplane, which was demonstrated "flying" along a wire at the world's first Aeronautical Exhibition, held at Crystal Palace, London, in 1868. Stringfellow also received a cash prize for one of his engines, which was the lightest practical power unit at the Exhibition. Although Stringfellow's models never achieved a really successful flight, his designs showed the way for others to follow. Several of his models are preserved in the Science Museum in London.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Member of the (Royal) Aeronautical Society 1868.
Bibliography
Many of Stringfellow's letters and papers are held by the Royal Aeronautical Society, London.
Further Reading
Harald Penrose, 1988, An Ancient Air: A Biography of John Stringfellow, Shrewsbury. A.M.Balantyne and J.Laurence Pritchard, 1956, "The lives and work of William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow", Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society (June) (an attempt to analyse conflicting evidence).
M.J.B.Davy, 1931, Henson and Stringfellow, London (an earlier work with excellent drawings from Henson's patent).
"The aeronautical work of John Stringfellow, with some account of W.S.Henson", Aeronau-tical Classics No. 5 (written by John Stringfellow's son and held by the Royal Aeronautical Society in London).
JDS

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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