Did you know that Otto Lilienthal was born today in 1848? He was known as the “Flying Man” and later the “Father of Flight”. Otto Lilienthal was the first person to make repeated and well-documented flights. Otto Lilenthal used his research about how birds flew including the shape of their wings, as well as the results of his test flights to design and improve his gliders. He made more than 2,000 test flights in about 5 years. Otto Lilienthal’s experiments and photographs of his test runs drew attention to the possibility of flying machines and inspired other engineers and scientists around the world.
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In their childhood, Otto Lilienthal and his brother also studied the flight of birds. They made strap-on wings, but were not able to successfully fly.
Otto Lilienthal designed 16 different gliders. The gliders could be controlled by Otto shifting his body to change the center of gravity.
Otto Lilienthal’s longest flight distances about more than 800 feet. He also found that with certain wind speeds he could ‘hover’ and photographers could capture good images.
Otto Lilienthal built a conical hill, about 50 feet tall. The conical shape allowed Lilienthal to be able to launch his glider in any direction the wind blew. Many spectators came to the hill to watch Lilienthal’s experiments. After his death, this hill was redesigned as a memorial to Lilienthal.
On August 9, 1896, Otto Lilienthal lost control of his glider and fell from a height of almost 50 feet and broke his neck. His friends and engineering team brought Otto Lilienthal to physicians and surgeons, but Otto Lilienthal succumbed to his injuries. The phrase “Sacrifices must be made” is inscribed on Otto Lilientha’s tombstone.
The Wright Brothers were inspired by Otto Lilienthal’s work and experiments. When Orville Wright was in Germany, he visited Otto Lilienthal’s widow to pay his respects and tribute to Lilienthal.
Otto Lilienthal also designed steam engines and boilers.