Whitehead, Gustave Albin

Whitehead, Gustave Albin,

1874–1927, German inventor and airplane pioneer, b. Gustav Albin Weisskopf. He immigrated to the United States in 1893 and later Americanized his name, but never became a citizen. Intrigued by the possibility of flight and influenced by Otto LilienthalLilienthal, Otto
, 1848–96, German aeronautical engineer, a pioneer in his experiments with gliders. He made major developments in the glider based on his observations of birds and wrote a number of books on aviation.
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, who also influenced the Wright brothersWright brothers,
American airplane inventors and aviation pioneers. Orville Wright 1871–1948, was born in Dayton, Ohio, and Wilbur Wright, 1867–1912, near New Castle, Ind.
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, he designed and constructed (1897–1915) a variety of gliders and other flying machines and their engines. Whitehead claimed (and a newspaper article reported) that he first flew a powered heavier-than-air craft in Fairfield, Conn., on Aug. 14, 1901, and flew several more times in 1901 and 1902. A great deal of controversy surrounds these claims (supported by ostensible eyewitnesses), which would make Whitehead the first person to achieve powered manned heavier-than-air flight, preceding the Wright brothers by more than two years. In all, Whitehead invented and built dozens of engine-powered aircraft and gliders.


See S. Randolph, Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead (1934); W. J. O'Dwyer and S. Randolph, History By Contract (1978).