* Irene's Country Corner * - Brasil - Santos Dummont


 © Irene. Not available for download. Please, visit Graphics by Irene if you like this graphic.  

 © Irene. Not available for download. Please, visit Graphics by Irene if you like this graphic.

- Alberto Santos-Dumont -

The Inventor of the Airplane


Alberto Santos-Dumont, aviation pioneer born in Brazil was educated in France, where he spent most of his life. He was born on July 20, 1873, in the city of João Aires, present Santos Dumont, in the state of Minas Gerais. He grew up in a coffee plantation owned by his family in Ribeirão Preto, in the state of São Paulo.

Fascinated by machinery since he was young, he learned to drive the farm steam tractors as a child. Alberto was also a big fan of Jules Verne and had read all his books before his tenth birthday. He says in his autobiography that it was contemplating the beautiful skies of Brazil at his plantations in the long sunny afternoons that made him first dream of flying in airships and flying machines.

In 1891, the engineer Henrique Dumont, Alberto's father, fell from his horse and became a paraplegic. He decided then to sell the plantation and move to Europe with his wife and his youngest son. At the age of seventeen, Santos-Dumont had money and a lot of interest in mechanics and machines, and later, he found himself a tutor in physics, chemistry, mechanics and electricity and pursued these studies. But his greatest dream and objective was to fly.


 Very interested in aerial flight, he made a balloon ascent in 1898. It was round and unusually small and he called it Brésil. He then began to construct dirigible airships. Between 1898 and 1905 he build and flew 11 dirigibles. After many failures he built one that in 1901 won the Deutsch Prize and a prize from the Brazilian government for the first flight in a given time (30 minutes) from Saint-Cloud to the Eiffel Tower and return. On board of Santo-Dumont nº 6, the Brazilian inventor was the one to make this flight receiving the prize which he shared with his mechanics and auxiliaries, and the rest was given to the chief of police of Paris to be donated to unemployed workers.

ln addition, he received a telegram with a compliment for such a deed, from that he considered the greatest genius of all times: Thomas Edison.

 Santos-Dumont continued to work on dirigibles, but finally achieved his dream of flying in a heavier-than-air craft in October 1906, when the 14-Bis, a machine on the principle of the box kite, took off in Paris using only its own motor, without any other help to make it take off, flying a distance of 60 meters.

As far as the world knew, it was the first airplane ever created which could really fly and Santos-Dumont became a hero to the world press.

At that time, the brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright said that they had secretly made short flights in 1903 before Santos-Dumont started making his own flights. As there were no records of the Wright brothers' flights, what could prove if they were lying or not, Santos-Dumont was credited with the glory of the first flight.

The Wrights' stories of flights at Kitty Hawk and later near Dayton, Ohio, were not believed, even in the US at the time. But, after much controversy, the Americans and the world - even though it remains a sore spot for Brazilians, to whom Santos-Dumont is known as the "Father of Aviation" - accepted the rumors that the Wright Brothers had flown a heavier-than-air craft just shortly before Santos-Dumont.

Today, the Wrights, are credited as being the inventors of the airplane and unfortunately many people do not even know about Santos-Dumont. But, although the world credits the Wright brothers as the inventors, the idea of adding the first ailerons to the extremities of the wings was undoubtedly Santos-Dumont's. And what is also very important, is that Santos-Dummont never used any contraption or catapult or wooden tracks to push his aircrafts or to help in taking off, as the Wright Brothers did. In fact, in 1909, the Wrights presented a more developed model of airplane, but the first real airplane flight using a motor and without any external help to take off was really made by the Brazilian Santos-Dumont.

Santos-Dumont had become a celebrity in Europe and had won several prizes and he was a friend to millionaires and royalty. Santos-Dumont and the Wright brothers never met, even though they had heard of each other's work.

In 1909, Santos Dumont presented another airplane, the Demoiselle, eight times smaller than the 14-Bis, and capable of flying at a faster speed.

The automobile was also another great passion of Santos-Dumont, who took part in various races in Paris. He was also the inventor of the wrist watch, in a demand of Cartier.

Santos-Dumont continued to build and fly airplanes until he fell ill in 1910, with what was later diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. He never took out patents of his inventions. In an interview to "Le Matin", on October 17, 1909, Dumont declared that he did not constructed airplanes for sale. His intention was to develop airplanes to the world and that he would provide all information needed to anyone who wished to construct airplanes identical to his own creations without charging anything for that.

When Santos-Dumont went back to Brazil in 1918, he bought a small lot on the side of a hill in the city of Petrópolis, in the mountains near Rio de Janeiro, and designed this small house full of tricks and imaginative details. The stairs, for instance, are built in such a way that the visitors can only start climbing the steps with their right foot. It was a place of rest and calm for Santos-Dumont. Today, his house, known as "A Encantada" (The Enchanted), is a museum.

Alberto Santos-Dumont, seriously ill and despondent, became depressed over the use of aircraft in warfare. He could not cope with the fact that his creation was used as the most lethal weapon of the time. On July 9, 1932, a revolution in São Paulo ("Revolução Constitucionalista") had begun.

On July 23, in the city of Guarujá in São Paulo, he saw federal airplanes that were going to bombard the port in Santos. It was Brazilians bombarding Brazilians. The inventor of the airplane felt guilty and later that night he committed suicide. His numerous and decisive contributions to aviation are his legacy to mankind and his name must always be remembered. 




© Irene. Not available for download. Please, visit Graphics by Irene if you like this graphic.

| Back to the Brazilian Menu |

This page was created on: January 24, 2002.
Last updated on: March 5, 2003.

[ Site Menu ] [ Home ]

~ Graphics by Irene ~ Rajiv's Graphics ~
Backgrounds by: Graphics by Grace (www.graphicsbygrace.com)
~ The Mother Bear (www.themotherbear.com) ~



© Irene. Not available for download. Please, visit Graphics by Irene if you like this graphic.

 Nothing in this site is Public Domain. Graphics are copyrighted by various artists and are used with permission.
Please, click on the links above to visit the websites were you can download the graphics from. Do NOT save anything from my pages, please.