Whitehead, Gustave Albin

Whitehead, Gustave Albin, 1874–1927, German inventor and airplane pioneer, b. Gustav Albin Weisskopf. He immigrated to the United States in 1893 and later Americanized his name, but never became a citizen. Intrigued by the possibility of flight and influenced by Otto Lilienthal, who also influenced the Wright brothers, he designed and constructed (1897–1915) a variety of gliders and other flying machines and their engines. Whitehead claimed (and a newspaper article reported) that he first flew a powered heavier-than-air craft in Fairfield, Conn., on Aug. 14, 1901, and flew several more times in 1901 and 1902. A great deal of controversy surrounds these claims (supported by ostensible eyewitnesses), which would make Whitehead the first person to achieve powered manned heavier-than-air flight, preceding the Wright brothers by more than two years. In all, Whitehead invented and built dozens of engine-powered aircraft and gliders.

See S. Randolph, Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead (1934); W. J. O'Dwyer and S. Randolph, History By Contract (1978).

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