Voisin, Gabriel

b. 5 February 1880 Belleville-sur-Saône, France
d. 25 December 1973 Ozenay, France
French manufacturer of aeroplanes in the early years of aviation.
Gabriel Voisin was one of a group of aviation pioneers working in France c. 1905. One of the leaders of this group was a rich lawyer-sportsman, Ernest Archdeacon. For a number of years they had been building gliders based on those of the Wright brothers. Archdeacon's glider of 1904 was flown by Voisin, who went on to assist in the design and manufacture of gliders for Archdeacon and Louis Blériot, including successful float-gliders. Gabriel Voisin was joined by his brother Charles in 1905 and they set up the first commercial aircraft factory. As the Voisins had limited funds, they had to seek customers who could afford to indulge in the fashionable hobby of flying. One was Santos- Dumont, who commissioned Voisin to build his "14 bis" aeroplane in 1906.
Early in 1907 the Voisins built their first powered aeroplane, but it was not a success.
Later that year they completed a biplane for a Paris sculptor, Léon Delagrange, and another for Henri Farman. The basic Voisin was a biplane with the engine behind the pilot and a "pusher" propeller. Pitching was controlled by biplane elevators forward of the pilot and rudders were fitted to the box kite tail, but there was no control of roll.
Improvements were gradually introduced by the Voisins and their customers, such as Farman. Incidentally, to flatter their clients the Voisins often named the aircraft after them, thus causing some confusion to historians. Many Voisins were built up until 1910, when the company's fortunes sank. Competition was growing, the factory was flooded, and Charles left. Gabriel started again, building robust biplanes of steel construction. Voisin bombers were widely used during the First World War, and a subsidiary factory was built in Russia.
In August 1917, Voisin sold his business when the French Air Ministry decided that Voisin aeroplanes were obsolete and that the factory should be turned over to the building of engines. After the war he started another business making prefabricated houses, and then turned to manufacturing motor cars. From 1919 to 1939 his company produced various models, mainly for the luxury end of the market but also including a few sports and racing cars. In the early 1950s he designed a small two-seater, which was built by the Biscuter company in Spain. The Voisin company finally closed in 1958.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur 1909. Académie des Sciences Gold Medal 1909.
1961, Mes dix milles cerfs-volants, France; repub. 1963 as Men, Women and 10,000 Kites, London (autobiography; an eminent reviewer said, "it contains so many demonstrable absurdities, untruths and misleading statements, that one does not know how much of the rest one can believe").
1962, Mes Mille et un voitures, France (covers his cars).
Further Reading
C.H.Gibbs-Smith, 1965, The Invention of the Aeroplane 1799–1909, London (includes an account of Voisin's contribution to aviation and a list of his early aircraft).
Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War I, London; reprinted 1990 (provides details of Voisin's 1914–18 aircraft).
E.Chadeau, 1987, L'Industrie aéronautique en France 1900–1950, de Blériot à Dassault, Paris.
G.N.Georgano, 1968, Encyclopedia of Motor Cars 1885 to the Present, New York (includes brief descriptions of Voisin's cars).

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

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