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An Ancient Air

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by Harald Penrose

An Ancient Air portrays the hitherto only briefly recorded life of John Stringfellow of Chard (1799-1883), the first man in the world to demonstrate that engine-powered winged flight was practicable.

Whereas earlier general aviation histories tend to discount Stringfellow's work, An Ancient Air reveals that his absorption with aviation was lifelong, starting with the construction of balloons, recorded here for the first time. Though professionally a lace-machine specialist, he was interested in all aspects of scientific development — he was a founder member of the Chard Institution for educational lectures, pioneered local photography, devised medical apparatus and even patented an armoured gun-carriage.

This book seeks to demonstrate the relationship of Stringfellow's work with that of his colleague, William Samuel Henson. They worked closely together on various aeronautical projects between the years 1835 and 1847, and the author puts forward evidence that it was Stringfellow who was entirely responsible for the historic 1848 monoplane, the first ever engine-driven model aeroplane to make a free flight. After Henson emigrated to the USA in 1848, Stringfellow continued to design revolutionary aeroplane models, such as the triplane he entered in the 1868 Crystal Palace Exhibition.
In his old age Stringfellow maintained his interest in aviation and passed on his enthusiasm to his son, Frederick John Stringfellow, who later built a model biplane and a multi-plane.

An Ancient Air, meticulously researched by Harald Penrose, an acknowledged authority on aviation history, presents for the first time a detailed account of Stringfellow's historic discoveries and sheds further welcome light on the pioneering days of aviation.

183 pages h/b 39 illustrations