Cody, Colonel Samuel Franklin

SUBJECT AREA: Aerospace
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b. probably 6 March 1861 Texas, USA
d. 7 August 1913 Farnborough, England
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American (naturalised British) aviation pioneer who made the first sustained aeroplane flight in Britain.
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"Colonel" Cody was one of the most colourful and controversial characters in aviation history. He dressed as a cowboy, frequently rode a horse, and appeared on the music-hall stage as a sharpshooter. Cody lived in England from 1896 and became a British subject in 1909. He wrote a melodrama, The Klondyke Nugget, which was first performed in 1898, with Cody as the villain and his wife as the heroine. It was a great success and Cody made enough money to indulge in his hobby of flying large kites. Several man-lifting kites were being developed in the mid-1890s, primarily for military observation purposes. Captain B.S.F. Baden-Powell built multiple hexagonal kites in England, while Lawrence Hargrave, in Australia, developed a very successful boxkite. Cody's man-lifting kites were so good that the British Government engaged him to supply kites, and act as an instructor with the Royal Engineers at the Balloon Factory, Farnborough. Cody's kites were rather like a box-kite with wings and, indeed, some were virtually tethered gliders. In 1905 a Royal Engineer reached a record height of 2,600 ft (790 m) in one of Cody's kites. While at Farnborough, Cody assisted with the construction of the experimental airship "British Army Dirigible No. 1", later known as Nulli Secundus. Cody was on board for the first flight in 1907. In the same year, Cody fitted an engine to one of his kites and it flew with no one on board; he also built a free-flying glider version. He went on to build a powered aeroplane with an Antoinette engine and on 16 October 1908 made a flight of 1,390 ft (424 m) at Farnborough; this was the first real flight in Britain. During the following years, Cody's large "Flying Cathedral" became a popular sight at aviation meetings, and in 1911 his "Cathedral" was the only British aeroplane to complete the course in the Circuit of Britain Contest. In 1912 Cody won the first British Military Aeroplane competition (a similar aeroplane is preserved by the Science Museum, London). Unfortunately, Cody and a passenger were killed when his latest aeroplane crashed at Farnborough in 1913; because Cody was such a popular figure at Farnborough, the tree to which he sometimes tethered his aeroplane was preserved as a memorial.
Later, there was a great controversy over who the first person to make an aeroplane flight in Britain was, as A.V. Roe, Horatio Phillips and Cody had all made hops before October 1908; most historians, however, now accept that it was Cody. Cody's title of'Colonel' was unofficial, although it was used by King George V on one of several visits to see Cody's work.
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Bibliography
Cody gave a lecture to the (Royal) Aeronautical Society which was published in their
Aeronautical Journal, London, January 1909.
Further Reading
P.B.Walker, 1971, Early Aviation at Farnborough, 2 vols, London (an authoritative source).
A.Gould Lee, 1965, The Flying Cathedral, London (biography). G.A.Broomfield, 1953, Pioneer of the Air, Aldershot (a less-reliable biography).
JDS

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

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