Langley, Samuel Pierpont

SUBJECT AREA: Aerospace
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b. 22 August 1834 Roxbury, Massachusetts, USA
d. 27 February 1906 Aiken, South Carolina, USA
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American scientist who built an unsuccessful aeroplane in 1903, just before the success of the Wright brothers.
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Professor Langley was a distinguished mathematician and astronomer who became Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (US National Museum) in 1887. He was also interested in aviation and embarked on a programme of experiments with a whirling arm to test wings and with a series of free-flying models. In 1896 one of his steam-powered models made a flight of 4,199 ft (1,280 m): this led to a grant from the Government to subsidize the construction of a manned aeroplane. Langley commissioned Stephen M. Balzer, an automobile engine designer, to build a lightweight aero-engine and appointed his assistant, Charles M.Manly, to oversee the project. After many variations, including rotary and radical designs, two versions of the Balzer-Manly engine were produced, one quarter size and one full size. In August 1903 the small engine powered a model which thus became the first petrol-engined aeroplane to fly. Langley designed his full-size aeroplane (which he called an Aerodrome) with tandem wings and a cruciform tail unit. The Balzer-Manly engine drove two pusher propellers. Manly was to be the pilot as Langley was now almost 70 years old. Most early aviators tested their machines by making tentative hops, but Langley decided to launch his Aerodrome by catapult from the roof of a houseboat on the Potomac river. Two attempts were made and on both occasions the Aerodrome crashed into the river: catapult problems and perhaps a structural weakness were to blame. The second crash occurred on 8 December 1903 and it is ironic that the Wright brothers, with limited funds and no Government support, successfully achieved a manned flight just nine days later. Langley was heartbroken. After his death there followed a strange affair in 1914 when Glenn Curtiss took Langley's Aerodrome, modified it, and tried to prove that but for the faulty catapult it would have flown before the Wrights' Flyer. A brief flight was made with floats instead of the catapult, and it flew rather better after more extensive modifications and a new engine.
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Bibliography
1897, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 1, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1911, Part 2.
Further Reading
J.Gordon Vaeth, 1966, Langley: Man of Science and Flight, New York (biography).
Charles H. Gibbs-Smith, 1985, Aviation, London (includes an analysis of Langley's work).
Tom D.Crouch, 1981, A Dream of Wings, New York.
Robert B.Meyer Jr (ed.), 1971, Langley's Aero Engine of 1903, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Annals of Flight, No. 6 (provides details about the engine).
JDS

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

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Langley, Samuel Pierpont — ▪ American engineer born Aug. 22, 1834, Roxbury, Mass., U.S. died Feb. 27, 1906, Aiken, S.C.  American astrophysicist and aeronautical pioneer who developed new instruments with which to study the Sun and built the first powered heavier than air… …   Universalium

  • Langley, Samuel (Pierpont) — born Aug. 22, 1834, Roxbury, Mass., U.S. died Feb. 27, 1906, Aiken, S.C. U.S. astronomer and aeronautics pioneer. He taught for many years at the future University of Pittsburgh. He studied the effect of solar activity on weather and invented the …   Universalium

  • Langley, Samuel (Pierpont) — (22 ago. 1834, Roxbury, Mass., EE.UU.–27 feb. 1906, Aiken, S.C.). Astrónomo estadounidense y pionero de la aeronáutica. Enseñó por muchos años en la futura universidad de Pittsburg. Estudió el efecto de la actividad solar en el clima e inventó el …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • Samuel Pierpont Langley — (22 août 1834, Roxbury 27 février 1906, Aiken) est un physicien, inventeur et astronome américain, bien que ses tentatives de vol pilotés soient restées infructueuses on le compte aussi parmi les pionniers de l aviation …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Samuel Pierpoint Langley — Samuel Pierpont Langley Samuel Pierpont Langley (* 22. August 1834 in Roxbury, Massachusetts; † 27. Februar 1906 in Aiken, South Carolina) war ein Astrophysiker und Flugpionier. Langley erfand unter anderem das …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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