Santos Dumont, the Aviation Pioneer
Who was the most famous person in Paris and in the world at the beginning of the 20th Century ?
Whenever Santos Dumont was spotted on the streets of Paris, the crowds would rush and pack the streets, eager to see what flight equipment he would test that time. Dumont would fly baloons of different shapes and propulsion, he would also make several attempts to put his 14-Bis airplane flying - which would many times make him end up on top of trees - in the middle of Paris city centre! Alberto Santos-Dumont was the first to have achieved flight of a powered airplane and this was with the No. 14-bis in Europe.
Alberto Santos Dumont was a Brazilian aviation pioneer. He was the heir to a Brazilian coffee fortune; grandson of a French immigrant and the son of a coffee planter, he devoted all his money and energy into inventions.
He mentioned in his autobiography that the idea of flying came to his mind when he was enjoying the magnificent view of skies in sunny afternoons at the plantation site in Brazil. He was certainly a man of great enthusiasm and energy!
Dumont was one of the first Parisians to invest in a gasoline-driven automobile. He used to describe himself as the first ‘sportsman of the air’. His achievements took him to the United States and got him an invitation from the White House to meet with the U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. He was also awarded several prestigious prizes which earned him royalty and friendship with millionaires and aviation pioneers.
Alberto Santos Dumont had also a special role in popularizing wrist watch among men in the early 20th century. To solve his difficulty regarding the checking of his pocket watch during his flight performance, Louis Cartier made a watch with a leather band that could be worn on wrist. The "Cartier Santos" is still sold today!
In his memory and honor, airports in Rio de Janeiro and Paranaguá are named after him. His name is also associated with the city of Santos Dumont, Brazil. A highway namely Rodovia Santos Dumont in São Paulo is named after him, and several streets all over Brazil are named after him.
Want to find out more about this excentric personality?
This month we have added the book Wings of Madness to our Library! Paul Hoffman tells the true story of the man who was once hailed worldwide as the conqueror of the air -- The dashing and impeccably dressed aeronaut stunned and delighted Paris, barhopping around the city in a one-man dirigible he invented, circling above crowds and crashing into rooftops.
Yet Santos-Dumont was a frenzied genius tortured by the weight of his own creation.
Wings of Madness is a riveting, brilliantly told story of this tormented man who helped to usher in the modern age and who epitomized the increasingly tortured spirit of the twentieth century -- it is elegant, fascinating, and deeply moving.
"unforgettably good book [told] with compassion and sympathy"
(Simon Winchester, New York Times)
To borrow the book, simply speak to your teacher in your next class.