At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we have the great privilege of honoring the lives and accomplishments of some of the world’s greatest innovators: our NIHF Inductees. These individuals are largely responsible for revolutionizing entire industries, and for helping to invent much of the technology that we take for granted today.
Aviation is just one of these many categories, and NIHF includes a number of Inductees who provided essential contributions to its development. In celebration of National Aviation Day, we invite you to read below to learn about a few of these pioneers of flight.
Orville and Wilbur Wright
Fascinated by the concept of mechanical flight from a young age, in 1893 they founded a bicycle shop and utilized the income to fund their aeronautical experiments. In 1899, they built their first machine, a biplane kite with mechanically twisted wings. Then, on the morning of Dec. 17, 1903, they achieved history by performing a 12-second unassisted takeoff from level ground. In 1905, they were able to fly for more than 24 miles thanks to additional trials and advancements to their airplane designs.
The Wright Brothers' original plane can still be seen today at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Born in Dessau, Germany, Hans von Ohain is credited with inventing the turbojet engine and helping to catapult the aeronautical world into the next generation. After earning a doctorate from the University of Göttingen in 1935, he spent the following year developing and building a working model of his groundbreaking engine, and from 1936-39 continued to improve on his design while at the Heinkel Aircraft Co. Finally, on Aug. 27, 1939, he watched his HeS 3B turbojet engine make its inaugural flight inside of a He 178 airplane at Heinkel Airfield.
He moved to America in 1947, where he worked as the chief scientist at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, helping to develop revolutionary aeronautical concepts including thrust augmentation, laser aerodynamics and particle separation dealing with high-speed flows. In addition to his posthumous induction into NIHF, in 1991 he received both the Charles Stark Draper Prize and the Daniel Guggenheim Medal.
Inducted into NIHF in 2003 for the contributions he made to the aerodynamic structure for planes and wings, Theodore von Karman greatly influenced the development of high-speed aircraft by applying his theory of the Vortex Trail, the first theory of supersonic drag.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, he attended both the Royal Technical University and University of Göttingen. It was at the latter that he discovered groundbreaking theories in aerodynamics, including his Law of Turbulence. Additionally, he is credited with creating prototypes for early rocket engines including Polaris, Minuteman, Poseidon and Tomahawk intercontinental ballistic missiles. Among the many awards and accolades he received throughout his career include the National Medal of Science and the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy.
Explore More Inventors in Aviation
To learn more about other NIHF Inductees who revolutionized the field of aviation, we invite you to visit our website.