Rotch, 1909, Conquest of the Air

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Abbott Lawrence Rotch. The Conquest of the Air: or the Advent of Aërial Navigation. New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1909.

Full-text pdf at the Internet Archive.


Chapter I – "The Ocean of Air" – outlines key findings from meteorology regarding the lower atmosphere.

Chapter II – "The History of Aërostation" –

  • Refers to early aeronauts or would-be aeronauts such as
    • Archytas of Tarentum
    • Roger Bacon ("to fill a large, hollow globe of copper, wrought extremely thin, with ethereal air or liquid fire, and to launch it from some elevated point into the atmosphere where it will float like a vessel on the water"
    • Leonardo da Vinci
    • Francis Lana (Prodromo all' Arte Maestra del P. Francesco Lana)
    • Besnier (French locksmith who designed a human-powered system of flapping wings)
    • Gusmao (Portuguese said to have flown from Lisbon to Vienna in Nachricht von dem Fliegenden Schiffe so aus Portugal den 24 Juni in Wien mit seinem Erfinder glücklich ankommen)
    • Father Galien of Avignon (L'Art de naviguer dans les airs, describing use of rarefied air in LTA balloons)
    • (Henry Cavendish and Tiberius Cavallo, hydrogen researchers)
    • Montgolfier brothers (described by Benjamin Franklin)
    • Marquis d'Arlandes & Pilâtre de Rozier, flew 21 November 1783 (described by Franklin)
    • John Jeffries, Bostonian in London, "first scientific balloon voyage"; accompanied a "French professional aëronaut named Blanchard" for 100 guineas on 30 November 1784, and again on 7 January 1785; collected temperature and wind data
  • then skips to some more recent events in scientific aeronautics:
  • Military uses of balloons: communication, surveillance, and escape (Franco-Prussian War)
    • "To-day a balloon corps is attached to the armies of all the great powers for the purpose of reconnoitering, communicating by wireless telegraphy or signaling with captive balloons." (pp. 72–73)
  • Exploration: Salomon August Andrée and Walter Wellman arctic expeditions.
  • Societies, clubs, & sports for promotion of aeronautics and aviation.

Chapter II – "The Dirigible Balloon" –

  • describes efforts to improve balloon steering since the Montgolfiers, including
  • comments on aircraft speed and dirigibility:
    For a balloon to be dirigible in all directions it is necessary that its own speed, relative to the ground, should be greater than that of the average winds it must operate. Evidently, then, a balloon will be dirigible on certain days and not on others, whatever is its proper speed, and it will be more often dirigible in proportion as its speed is greater. (p. 86)
  • mentions some recent vessels including
    • Lebaudy Frères, originally sugar refiners, and engineer Henri Julliot; Le Patrie (1906) and Le République (1907)
    • Ville de Paris, built with funding from Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe and given to the French government (pp. 97–98)
    • Clément-Bayard, similar aircraft constructed by Astra for sale to the Russian government at $40,000.
    • Malécot balloon-airplane hybrid
    • "the small portable balloon made by the Zodiac Company, holding 25,000 cubic feet, which, when filled with hydrogen gas, will lift two persons, or with illuminating gas, one person, and which its engine of 16 horse-power can propel at the rate of about 13 miles per hour." With detachable parts and low $5000 cost.
    • Friedrich Wölfert's unsuccess in 1897
    • Zeppelins
    • Gross (Groß?) – German War Department
    • Parseval – "Society for the Study of Motor Balloons"
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