Aviation Pioneer. He emigrated from Germany to the United States where he designed and built gliders, flying machines and engines between 1897 and 1915. Controversy surrounds published accounts and Whitehead's own claims that he flew a powered machine successfully several times in 1901 and 1902, predating the first flights by the Wright Brothers in 1903. Much of Whitehead's reputation rests on a newspaper article written as an eyewitness account which stated that Whitehead made a powered flight in Connecticut on August 14, 1901. In the months that followed, details from this article were widely reprinted in newspapers around the world. Whitehead's aircraft designs and experiments also attracted notice in Scientific American magazine and a 1904 book about industrial progress. Whitehead later worked for sponsors who hired him to build aircraft of their own design, although none flew, and he became a known designer and builder of lightweight engines. He fell out of public notice around 1915 and died in relative obscurity in 1927. In 1937, a magazine article and book asserted that Whitehead had made powered flights in 1901-1902. The book included statements from people who said they had seen various Whitehead flights decades earlier. The book and article triggered debate in the 1930s and '40s among scholars, researchers, aviation enthusiasts and Orville Wright over the question of whether Whitehead was first in powered flight. Mainstream historians dismissed the flight claims. Nevertheless further independent research in the 1960s and '70s, including more books in 1966 and 1978 by the same author of the 1937 book, supported the Whitehead claims. No photograph conclusively showing Whitehead making a powered controlled flight is known to exist. However, reports have referred to such photos being on display as early as 1904. Researchers have studied and attempted to copy Whitehead aircraft. Since the 1980s, enthusiasts in the U.S. and Germany have built and flown versions of Whitehead's "Number 21" machine using modern engines and propellers. The Smithsonian Institution has repeatedly dismissed claims that Whitehead made powered flights before the Wrights. Whitehead supporters assert that the Smithsonian lost its objectivity on the issue when it signed a 1948 agreement with the estate of Orville Wright requiring the Institution to recognize the 1903 Wright Flyer as the first aircraft to make a manned, powered, controlled flight or forfeit possession of the Wright brothers' first aircraft. A sharp difference of opinion continues among aviation researchers and historians over Whitehead's work. Some believe that he was the first human to fly a powered heavier-than-air machine, while others believe none of his powered machines ever flew and that he contributed nothing to aviation. In 2013 Jane's All The World's Aircraft published an essay in which the author asserted that Whitehead was first to make a manned, powered, controlled flight. This article, backed by Jane's international reputation, reignited debate over who flew first. The editorial relied heavily on a researcher whose identification of a photo of Whitehead in powered flight was conclusively debunked by another researcher. Jane's later took steps to distance itself from the claims of the piece, asserting that they were the views of the author, not the magazine. Motivated by the Jane's editorial, Connecticut enacted a law which specifies that "Powered Flight Day" honors the first powered flight by Gustave Whitehead, rather than the Wright Brothers.
Bio courtesy of: Wikipedia
FATHER OF CONNECTICUT AVIATION
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Records on Ancestry