Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Zeppelin, Count Ferdinand von


Born July 8, 1838, in Konstanz; died Mar. 3, 1917, in Charlottenburg, near Berlin. German designer of dirigibles.

Zeppelin graduated from the Ludwigsburg Military Academy in 1854. He served with the Union Army during the Civil War in the United States and fought in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 (Seven Weeks’ War) and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. He attained the rank of general before retiring in 1891 to work on the development of dirigibles.

Zeppelin designed a rigid dirigible with a metal frame covered by cloth and supported by internal gas cells. The first such airship, with a volume of 11,300 cu m, made its initial flight on July 2, 1900, but it was destroyed by a storm soon thereafter. In 1905, Zeppelin built a second dirigible; it subsequently crashed while landing. Airships of Zeppelin’s design came to be known as zeppelins. Beginning in 1906, most of the dirigibles he constructed were purchased by the military. By 1914, 25 dirigibles had been constructed, including six for passengers. Zeppelins were used for military purposes during World War I.

The Graf Zeppelin, which was built in 1928 after Zeppelin’s death, made many long-distance flights and was used to carry passengers and mail across the Atlantic; it was demonstrated in Moscow in 1930. The last passenger-carrying zeppelin, the Hindenburg, was completed in 1936. It made 63 flights before it exploded and burned in 1937.


Veigelin, K. E. Ocherki po istorii letnogo dela. Moscow 1940.
Parseval, A. Graf Zeppelin und die deutsche Luftfahrt. Berlin, 1925.
Eckener, H. Graf Zeppelin: Sein Leben nach eigenen Aufzeichnungen und persönlichen Erinnerungen. Stuttgart, 1938.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin's inspired idea was to make airships rigid, so superseding the early blimps, which were fatally vulnerable to leaks from the inflammable hydrogen used to inflate them.
Zeppelin: Named after the German general and aeronautical engineer Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin who served in the American civil war.