OT: Who invented the airfoil?

Started by Rune Allnor November 25, 2010
Hi all.

This is one of those questions that just popped into my mind
last night: Who invented / discovered the airfoil? Like in aviation
history.

I know the Montgolfiers discovered the balloon, the Wright did
the first powered flight and so on, but who was the first to
describe the airforil as a component for 'heavier-than-air' flight?

Lilienthal used devices very similar to what we today would call
hang gliders a couple of decades before the Wrights got their
flyer together. I have seen claims that one of Lilienthal's main
contributions to aviation history was that he published a very
detailed description of the flight charactersitics of the airfoil
glider,
a description that turned out to be essential for e.g. the Wrights
to be able to build an actualair plane.

But describing the airfoil charactersitics is one thing - who
*invented* the airfoil? Was it ol'e Otto himself? Or somebody else?

Rune
Rune Allnor  <allnor@tele.ntnu.no> wrote:

>Hi all. > >This is one of those questions that just popped into my mind >last night: Who invented / discovered the airfoil? Like in aviation >history. > >I know the Montgolfiers discovered the balloon, the Wright did >the first powered flight and so on, but who was the first to >describe the airforil as a component for 'heavier-than-air' flight?
I'm guessing airfoils existed before they were used as airplane wings. Just a hunch. Steve
On 11/24/2010 09:08 PM, Rune Allnor wrote:
> Hi all. > > This is one of those questions that just popped into my mind > last night: Who invented / discovered the airfoil? Like in aviation > history. > > I know the Montgolfiers discovered the balloon, the Wright did > the first powered flight and so on, but who was the first to > describe the airforil as a component for 'heavier-than-air' flight? > > Lilienthal used devices very similar to what we today would call > hang gliders a couple of decades before the Wrights got their > flyer together. I have seen claims that one of Lilienthal's main > contributions to aviation history was that he published a very > detailed description of the flight charactersitics of the airfoil > glider, > a description that turned out to be essential for e.g. the Wrights > to be able to build an actualair plane. > > But describing the airfoil charactersitics is one thing - who > *invented* the airfoil? Was it ol'e Otto himself? Or somebody else?
God? Darwin? Chance? Most early aviators copied bird wings or sails, or some mixture. Google "Development of the airfoil" and you may find this page: http://www.desktop.aero/appliedaero/airfoils1/airfoilhistory.html. The Wright brothers did tests when they were developing their gliders, and discovered that most of the published aeronautical data was wrong. They ended up doing extensive wind tunnel testing of airfoil sections. Note that the early airfoils -- for the most part all of them used through WW-I -- were very thin sections with sharp leading edges. These tend to be "one speed" sections, with sharply increasing drag as you get off of the optimal speed. More modern subsonic airfoils have blunter leading edges, which gives a much more forgiving lift/drag characteristic over varying angles of attack. -- Tim Wescott Wescott Design Services http://www.wescottdesign.com Do you need to implement control loops in software? "Applied Control Theory for Embedded Systems" was written for you. See details at http://www.wescottdesign.com/actfes/actfes.html
On Nov 25, 5:08&#2013266080;am, Rune Allnor <all...@tele.ntnu.no> wrote:
> Hi all. > > This is one of those questions that just popped into my mind > last night: Who invented / discovered the airfoil? Like in aviation > history. > > I know the Montgolfiers discovered the balloon, the Wright did > the first powered flight and so on, but who was the first to > describe the airforil as a component for 'heavier-than-air' flight? > > Lilienthal used devices very similar to what we today would call > hang gliders a couple of decades before the Wrights got their > flyer together. I have seen claims that one of Lilienthal's main > contributions to aviation history was that he published a very > detailed description of the flight charactersitics of the airfoil > glider, > a description that turned out to be essential for e.g. the Wrights > to be able to build an actualair plane. > > But describing the airfoil charactersitics is one thing - who > *invented* the airfoil? Was it ol'e Otto himself? Or somebody else? > > Rune
Leonardo da Vinci. I acted as a tour guide to our local art gallery's exhibition of Leonadro da Vinci machines, which include many that attempt to experiment with flight. That was amazing, because I got to go over replicas of the machines (and to see an original Leonardo notebook). Leonardo's designs include several aerofoils, the best known of which is used in the 'ornithopter'. Though strictly speaking, Leonardo did not realise the aerofoil cross section except by accident, through using flexible canvas that naturally adopted an aerofoil section. If you get the chance, go to see the exhibition which is currently on tour (it's in Brisbane at the moment): http://www.davincimuseum.com.au/Canberra10/php/home.php My Dad was an aerodynamicist, and designed the wings for the Harrier. He used to quote chapter and verse about how bad my home-made kite designs were, but I remember him explaining how canvas streched properly on a frame makes a reasonable aerofoil. I used to think he was boring at the time... Chris ========================== Chris Bore BORESSignal Processing www.bores.com
On Wed, 24 Nov 2010 21:08:42 -0800 (PST), Rune Allnor
<allnor@tele.ntnu.no> wrote:

>Hi all. > >This is one of those questions that just popped into my mind >last night: Who invented / discovered the airfoil? Like in aviation >history. > >I know the Montgolfiers discovered the balloon, the Wright did >the first powered flight and so on, but who was the first to >describe the airforil as a component for 'heavier-than-air' flight? > >Lilienthal used devices very similar to what we today would call >hang gliders a couple of decades before the Wrights got their >flyer together. I have seen claims that one of Lilienthal's main >contributions to aviation history was that he published a very >detailed description of the flight charactersitics of the airfoil >glider, >a description that turned out to be essential for e.g. the Wrights >to be able to build an actualair plane. > >But describing the airfoil charactersitics is one thing - who >*invented* the airfoil? Was it ol'e Otto himself? Or somebody else? > >Rune
Birds have had them for a long time. Some flying reptiles before that. IIRC DaVinci did a bunch of sketches of bird wings and had various illustrated ideas about flying machines. I don't know if it's an "invention" if you just copy or adapt it off a bird. Eric Jacobsen Minister of Algorithms Abineau Communications http://www.abineau.com
On Nov 25, 6:32&#2013266080;pm, eric.jacob...@ieee.org (Eric Jacobsen) wrote:
> On Wed, 24 Nov 2010 21:08:42 -0800 (PST), Rune Allnor > > > > > > <all...@tele.ntnu.no> wrote: > >Hi all. > > >This is one of those questions that just popped into my mind > >last night: Who invented / discovered the airfoil? Like in aviation > >history. > > >I know the Montgolfiers discovered the balloon, the Wright did > >the first powered flight and so on, but who was the first to > >describe the airforil as a component for 'heavier-than-air' flight? > > >Lilienthal used devices very similar to what we today would call > >hang gliders a couple of decades before the Wrights got their > >flyer together. I have seen claims that one of Lilienthal's main > >contributions to aviation history was that he published a very > >detailed description of the flight charactersitics of the airfoil > >glider, > >a description that turned out to be essential for e.g. the Wrights > >to be able to build an actualair plane. > > >But describing the airfoil charactersitics is one thing - who > >*invented* the airfoil? Was it ol'e Otto himself? Or somebody else? > > >Rune > > Birds have had them for a long time. &#2013266080; Some flying reptiles before > that. > > IIRC DaVinci did a bunch of sketches of bird wings and had various > illustrated ideas about flying machines. > > I don't know if it's an "invention" if you just copy or adapt it off a > bird.
Of course. But the question that popped into my head the other day was who first described the airfoil as a viable method for human aviation. Leonardo drew / fantasized about the thing, but did not verify that it actually worked. I suppose I'll settle for Lilienthal. Rune
On Nov 26, 6:08&#2013266080;am, Rune Allnor <all...@tele.ntnu.no> wrote:
> On Nov 25, 6:32&#2013266080;pm, eric.jacob...@ieee.org (Eric Jacobsen) wrote: > > > > > On Wed, 24 Nov 2010 21:08:42 -0800 (PST), Rune Allnor > > > <all...@tele.ntnu.no> wrote: > > >Hi all. > > > >This is one of those questions that just popped into my mind > > >last night: Who invented / discovered the airfoil? Like in aviation > > >history. > > > >I know the Montgolfiers discovered the balloon, the Wright did > > >the first powered flight and so on, but who was the first to > > >describe the airforil as a component for 'heavier-than-air' flight? > > > >Lilienthal used devices very similar to what we today would call > > >hang gliders a couple of decades before the Wrights got their > > >flyer together. I have seen claims that one of Lilienthal's main > > >contributions to aviation history was that he published a very > > >detailed description of the flight charactersitics of the airfoil > > >glider, > > >a description that turned out to be essential for e.g. the Wrights > > >to be able to build an actualair plane. > > > >But describing the airfoil charactersitics is one thing - who > > >*invented* the airfoil? Was it ol'e Otto himself? Or somebody else? > > > >Rune > > > Birds have had them for a long time. &#2013266080; Some flying reptiles before > > that. > > > IIRC DaVinci did a bunch of sketches of bird wings and had various > > illustrated ideas about flying machines. > > > I don't know if it's an "invention" if you just copy or adapt it off a > > bird. > > Of course. But the question that popped into my head the other > day was who first described the airfoil as a viable method for > human aviation. Leonardo drew / fantasized about the thing, but > did not verify that it actually worked. > > I suppose I'll settle for Lilienthal. > > Rune
That depends if you think Leonardo made the machines or not. He was an experimenter, as well as studying in detail the way birds flew (not just fantasising, he dissected them and made models). I think there are three pieces of evidence that support the idea that he at least experimented with flight: 1) When working for the Duke of Milan on the famous brass horse sculpture, one of the specififations was for an enormous enclosed space that would be hidden from view. Far bigger than was needed for the sculpture workshop. And Leonardo describes in detail in notebooks how to use such a space to experiment with flying machines. 2) A prominent lawyer who was a small boy at the time Leonardo was most interested in flight, wrote about Leonardo as the man who jumped off a cliff in a flying machine and fell to the ground. 3) Leonardo in one description of the apparatus for strapping yourself into one of his machines says quite clearly that you must not strap yourself in too tightly because if you do, it really hurts when you jump off a cliff and hit the ground. That to me sounds like advice from experience. :-) The problem with Leonardo's designs, as he himself noted, was that the human body is not capable of powering such a machine. At that point he turned his attention to gliders, but was quite old and made little further progress. So he did (may have..) invented the aerofoil but was hampered by a lack of a power source to drive it forwards. Chris =========================== Chris Bore BORES Signal Processing www.bores.com
On Nov 25, 5:32&#2013266080;pm, eric.jacob...@ieee.org (Eric Jacobsen) wrote:
> On Wed, 24 Nov 2010 21:08:42 -0800 (PST), Rune Allnor > > > > <all...@tele.ntnu.no> wrote: > >Hi all. > > >This is one of those questions that just popped into my mind > >last night: Who invented / discovered the airfoil? Like in aviation > >history. > > >I know the Montgolfiers discovered the balloon, the Wright did > >the first powered flight and so on, but who was the first to > >describe the airforil as a component for 'heavier-than-air' flight? > > >Lilienthal used devices very similar to what we today would call > >hang gliders a couple of decades before the Wrights got their > >flyer together. I have seen claims that one of Lilienthal's main > >contributions to aviation history was that he published a very > >detailed description of the flight charactersitics of the airfoil > >glider, > >a description that turned out to be essential for e.g. the Wrights > >to be able to build an actualair plane. > > >But describing the airfoil charactersitics is one thing - who > >*invented* the airfoil? Was it ol'e Otto himself? Or somebody else? > > >Rune > > Birds have had them for a long time. &#2013266080; Some flying reptiles before > that. > > IIRC DaVinci did a bunch of sketches of bird wings and had various > illustrated ideas about flying machines.
Harrumph!! :-) That is maybe 2,000 pages of notes and sketches about birds, flight and flying machines, surviving from perhaps 10 or a 100 times that number of originals. With detailed design of hinges, gears, aerofoil sections, wing shapes, etc. I had the luck to see one of the original notebooks that is rarely on view, and the modern technical drawing style, accuracy, and level of detail is amazing. Also the extensive notes on the design and results of experiments, which suggest a man who did much more than simply dream. I think he was foremost an engineer, and a practical one at that. http://www.leonardo-da-vinci-biography.com/leonardo-da-vinci-flying-machine.html
> I don't know if it's an "invention" if you just copy or adapt it off a > bird.
Like a robot arm is not an invention because it is copied off a human? :-) Chris ====================== Chris Bore BORES Signal Processing www.bores.com
> Eric Jacobsen > Minister of Algorithms > Abineau Communicationshttp://www.abineau.com
On 26/11/2010 11:30, Chris Bore wrote:
> On Nov 25, 5:32 pm, eric.jacob...@ieee.org (Eric Jacobsen) wrote: >> On Wed, 24 Nov 2010 21:08:42 -0800 (PST), Rune Allnor >> >> >> >> <all...@tele.ntnu.no> wrote: >>> Hi all. >> >>> This is one of those questions that just popped into my mind >>> last night: Who invented / discovered the airfoil? Like in aviation >>> history. >>
I think the aborigines have at least a reasonable claim to this - the classic v-shaped hand-carved boomerang I owned years ago definitely incorporated an airfoil shape. Richard Dobson
On Fri, 26 Nov 2010 03:30:57 -0800 (PST), Chris Bore
<chris.bore@gmail.com> wrote:

>On Nov 25, 5:32=A0pm, eric.jacob...@ieee.org (Eric Jacobsen) wrote: >> On Wed, 24 Nov 2010 21:08:42 -0800 (PST), Rune Allnor >> >> >> >> <all...@tele.ntnu.no> wrote: >> >Hi all. >> >> >This is one of those questions that just popped into my mind >> >last night: Who invented / discovered the airfoil? Like in aviation >> >history. >> >> >I know the Montgolfiers discovered the balloon, the Wright did >> >the first powered flight and so on, but who was the first to >> >describe the airforil as a component for 'heavier-than-air' flight? >> >> >Lilienthal used devices very similar to what we today would call >> >hang gliders a couple of decades before the Wrights got their >> >flyer together. I have seen claims that one of Lilienthal's main >> >contributions to aviation history was that he published a very >> >detailed description of the flight charactersitics of the airfoil >> >glider, >> >a description that turned out to be essential for e.g. the Wrights >> >to be able to build an actualair plane. >> >> >But describing the airfoil charactersitics is one thing - who >> >*invented* the airfoil? Was it ol'e Otto himself? Or somebody else? >> >> >Rune >> >> Birds have had them for a long time. =A0 Some flying reptiles before >> that. >> >> IIRC DaVinci did a bunch of sketches of bird wings and had various >> illustrated ideas about flying machines. > >Harrumph!! :-) > >That is maybe 2,000 pages of notes and sketches about birds, flight >and flying machines, surviving from perhaps 10 or a 100 times that >number of originals. With detailed design of hinges, gears, aerofoil >sections, wing shapes, etc. I had the luck to see one of the original >notebooks that is rarely on view, and the modern technical drawing >style, accuracy, and level of detail is amazing. Also the extensive >notes on the design and results of experiments, which suggest a man >who did much more than simply dream. I think he was foremost an >engineer, and a practical one at that. > >http://www.leonardo-da-vinci-biography.com/leonardo-da-vinci-flying-machine= >.html > >> I don't know if it's an "invention" if you just copy or adapt it off a >> bird. > >Like a robot arm is not an invention because it is copied off a >human? :-)
The mechanism or mechanization may be an invention, but the arm is not. The birds already had the airfoil, so realization in another form doesn't really invent the airfoil any more than the robot is a result of "inventing" the arm. That's how I was thinking about it, anyway. ;) Rune clarified he was thinking of mechanical realization. Eric Jacobsen Minister of Algorithms Abineau Communications http://www.abineau.com