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The First Organized and Published Collection of Aviation Research (1894)


In 1894 American railroad engineer Octave Chanute published his book, Progress in Flying Machines, in New York at the press of the American Engineer and Railroad Journal. This book was the first organized and published collection of aviation research, and a work which profoundly influenced the Wright Brothers. Chanute first became interested in aviation in 1875, and after his retirement in 1890 devoted all of his time to promoting this new science. He began collecting data from flight researchers all over the world, which he published in a series of articles in The Railroad and Engineering Journal between 1891 and 1893, and collected a year later for publication in book form.

In collaboration with other researchers, Chanute also conducted several experiments with various types of gliders, concluding from these investigations that the best way to achieve extra lift without a prohibitive increase in weight was to stack several wings one above the other. This led him to design the unmotorized Chanute biplane, upon which the Wright brothers based their first glider. Chanute and the Wright brothers became acquainted in 1900, when Wilbur Wright wrote to Chanute after reading Progress in Flying Machines. Chanute visited Kitty Hawk several times and helped to publicize the Wrights' work.