Col. Charles A. Lindbergh paid tribute to the Jewish pioneer inventor and martyr to aviation, Otto Lilienthal, in his article on aviation appearing in Sunday’s issue of the “New York Times.”
“America has found her wings, has awakened to the realization that she can fly,” writes Col. Lindbergh. “This realization has come so quickly that the long process of learning to fly has been forgotten, the technical development of the airplane has been so unnoticed that the labor of years seemed to reach its fruition almost overnight.
“Forty years ago a man named Lilienthal watched the washing hung out on a clothes line. He noticed that the tablecloths and sheets and other normally flat pieces lifted in a strong breeze above the horizontal position which it would be natural to suppose they would assume when blown out by the wind. Then he noticed that the cloth had been curved by the wind and discovered, logically, that a curved surface lifts.
“This was the beginning of the airplane–the result of the knowledge Lilienthal gained by patient observation of such things as washing and the wings of birds. He learned that a curved surface with a thick leading edge like that of a bird lifted better than one with a thin edge although he did not know why this was the case. Now we know it is due to the greater vacuum produced above the wing.
“There is no greater romance than the development of the airplane, and it is a pity that the recent flights which have done so much to extend its use have dimmed a little the less spectacular achievements of men who began this evolution by patient experiments. Many of them lost their lives. Lilienthal himself was the first man to die in attempting flight in a heavier-thanair machine.”
He was a member of the German Society for the Advancement of Aerial Navigation. He was the author of several works in which he explained the theoretical reasons for the form of his aerial machine.
Otto Lilienthal, German-Jewish mechanical engineer and experimenter in aerial navigation, was born May 23, 1848 at Anklam. He died August 9, 1896 at Rhinow during a demonstration of his aerial machine. His theory was that artificial flight must follow the principles of bird-flight. His aerial experiments, which were made with the assistance of his brother, G. Lilienthal, extended over a period of twenty-five years. In the summer of 1891 he made, with a pair of curved wings designed for soaring, the first practical demonstration of man’s ability to fly. He made the flight successfully several times, but finally met death during an experiment at Rhinow.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.