Zeppelin, Ferdinand, Graf von (zĕpˈəlĭn, Ger. fĕrˈdēnänt gräf fən tsĕpˌəlēnˈ) [key], 1838–1917, German army officer and airship inventor and builder. He entered the Prussian army in 1858 and served in the Seven Weeks War and in the Franco-Prussian War. He was an observer with the Union army during the American Civil War. In 1891 he retired from the Prussian army to devote himself to the building of motor-driven airships. He invented the first rigid airship in 1900, and in 1906 built one that had a speed of 30 mi (48 km) per hr. In 1908 he established at Friederichshafen the Zeppelin Foundation for the development of aerial navigation and the manufacture of airships.