Quick demonstration of this site

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At http://aero.referata.com we have a wiki database containing records about aeronautics and aviation globally up to 1916, during the period when the idea of flying machines transitioned from a dream and a hobby into a new science and a startup industry. Each record includes some structured data and some wikitext. The data include:

  • 14,000 patent records with information on aeronautics-related patent applications in any country up to 1918
  • Hundreds of aeronautical clubs, a place for the social infrastructure of inventing the airplane in the early phase and then a place to try airplanes, afterward
  • Hundreds of new firms in the aircraft business, almost all founded in or after 1908, from 1908-1916
  • A hundred exhibitions, conferences, and prizes for aeronautics and aviation
  • many hundreds of persons who were inventors or authors in the aeronautical and aviation fields
  • Many hundreds of letters between aeronautical experimenters
  • Not yet loaded: over 30,000 bibliographic records of publications about aeronautics from the Bibliography of Aeronautics (1910, 1916, 1921)

These records display reports, e.g. an inventor page can automatically list patents associated with the inventor.

Our research links these records from multiple sources to construct individual and organizational histories and will eventually yield networks of co-authorships and partnerships. One challenge is that we do not have a unified definitive source of purely biographical information, such as birth date or full name. We put these diverse kinds of records on a public wiki so that specialists who are not part of the initial project can improve the underlying data and the matching.

Historical problem -- identification and disambiguation:

Small historical questions: Are these inventors the same person or different people? Is the idea the same idea patented in two countries, or different ideas?

These things are necessary for a high quality count of the activity.

Big questions: Which institutions supported the advances of aeronautics and aviation? (Clubs, libraries, firms, military spending, universities, patent offices . . . )

To track the micro questions and answers, which are needed for counts that address the big questions, I needed a layer of annotation on top of patents. So I launched aero.referata.com, a wiki with Cargo.

Heavy links across these elements; see Octave Chanute's invention:

and from there, to Octave Chanute:

http://aero.referata.com/wiki/Octave_Chanute

And patents have category:

Categories link to one another hierarchically. Usually they were assigned later. The early categories are relevant for history and they are vaguer.

Among them: exhibitions and conferences which were important to organize thinking and encouragement.

Also firms and clubs:

It would be possible to take this approach to get patent data organized and upload it to Wikidata where each patent is an item. Or, WIPO could host patent info updated here.

Correct errors/limits in sources, e.g. Patent US-1915-1143817 which had 10 or 11 assignees (counting the inventor too), but only one or two are listed on espacenet and on google patents. And there seems to be an impression left on google that Eckenwiler did not file for this patent, but it's clear he did from the doc itself.