The airplane as an open source invention. Peter B. Meyer, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics * *Findings and views are those of the author, not the BLS Session K10: Innovation without patents IEHA, Utrecht Aug 7, 2009. Development of the airplane (heavier than air, with fixed wings).
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Peter B. Meyer,
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*
*Findings and views are those of the author, not the BLS
Session K10: Innovation without patents
Aug 7, 2009
1860s Clubs and journals on “aerial navigation” appear
It’s a niche activity – maybe hopeless, useless, and dangerous
Publications do not refer much to prior work
1894 Survey book by Chanute refers to 190 people/experiments
Increasingly publications refer to prior work.
Many designs were shared openly.
I seek to quantify this activity.
1903 Powered-glider flights by Wright brothers and others
1909 An industry arises
These are counts of pages referring to the individual.
The people are diverse and international.
They are central to the history of the invention.
Their findings were mostly public.
Examined shapes for upper and lower surfaces of wings, 1880s and 1890s
Engineer in France, 1870s
Showed importance of tail on model aircraft for stability
Made box kite findings circa 1894
Presented and published
Did not patent, on principle.
Why? “. . . to soar upward and to glide, free as the bird” -- Otto Lilienthal, 1889
Railroad / civil engineer, then writer
His 1894 book Progress in FlyingMachines,
surveyed experiments, devices, theories
Adopted “Pratt truss” 1896.
Chanute preferred findings to be shared so as to speed progress
Was in contact with many experimenters. Visited with Langley, Santos-Dumont, Ferber, Huffaker, Herring, Maxim and others.
Corresponded with Hargrave, Mouillard, Montgomery, Cabot, Zahm, Kress, Wenham, Moy, Pilcher, Means, Lilienthals, and others.
and continuing to 1910
Counted references to persons or institutions in the 11 books below, combined:
Crouch’s A Dream of Wings (1981/2002)
Dale’s Early Flying Machines (1992)
Garber’s Wright Brothers and the Birth of Aviation (2005)
Gibbs-Smith’s The Invention of the Aeroplane. (1966)
Hallion’s Taking Flight (2003)
Hoffman.Wings of Madness (2003 biog of Santos-Dumont)
Jakab’s Visions of a Flying Machine (1990)
Penrose’s An Ancient Air (biography of John Stringfellow)
Randolph’s Before the Wrights flew: the story of Gustave Whitehead. (1966)
Runge and Lukasch Erfinder Leben (2005) (biography of Lilienthal brothers)
Shulman’s Unlocking the Sky (bio of Glenn Curtiss)
Preliminary; almost all this is in English.Now up to 2000 persons referenced.
Again the same names appear.
Hundreds of fixed-wing flying machine patents were filed before 1907. [Data for Germany and U.S.: Simine Short and Otto-Lilienthal Museum]
Wilbur and Orville Wright ran a bicycle shop.
They read up on gliders and try flight experiments.
“I am an enthusiast . . . I wish to . . . add my mite to help on the future worker who will attain final success." -- Wilbur Wright, 1899
"At the beginning we had no thought of recovering what we were expending, which was not great . . ." -- Orville Wright, 1953
First letter to Chanute: “Assuming then that Lilienthal was correct . . . ”
“. . . my object is to learn to what extent similar plans have been tested and found to be failures, and also to obtain such suggestions as your great knowledge and experience might enable you to give me. Imake no secret of my plans [because] I believe no financial profit will accrue to the inventor of the first flying machine, and that only those who are willing to give as well as to receive suggestions can hope to link their names with the honor of its discovery. The problem is too great for one man alone and unaided to solve in secret.”
“I intend to employ [an apparatus] similar to the "double-deck" machine with which the experiments of yourself and Mr. Herring were conducted in 1896-7.”
Chanute’s reply: “I believe like yourself that no financial profit is to be expected from such investigations for a long while to come.”
They are skilled, precision-minded toolsmiths, in a workshop every day.
They flew craft repeatedly as kites and gliders. No landing gear, no engine.
Their piloting design had to be learned, like on bicycle
Late 1902: they become more secretive, apparently because of wing design success
1903: They filed for a patent on their control mechanism for the wings.
Late 1903: Powered glider flight.
They held their patent rights tightly and enforce them.
It has been suggested that this delayed overall growth by US producers.
Wrights’ first powered, controlled fixed-wing flight