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Alberto Santos-Dumont7. april 2011 21:27
by Gary Hudson
Alberto Santos Dumont, the son of Brazilian millionaire, became the leading balloon pioneer around the beginning of last century. Alberto was designing aircrafts at the same time that the Wright brothers were at Kitty Hawk and he would later design several balloons, airplanes and helicopters.
Born on July 20th, 1873, Albert was the sixth of eight children. His father, Henrique Dumont, was an engineer of French descent who later had a coffee plantation and his mother, Francisca de Paula Santos was from Portuguese descent. Henrique Dumont turned into a coffee king in Brazil.
Mechanics grasped Alberto’s attention from an early age. At the age of 17 he joined a family on their 6 month travel to Paris. During his stay in Paris he bought a car from a man called Mr. Peugeot who at that time made three cars a year. He took the vehicle back to Brazil and surprised his family with what was probably one of the first cars in South America.
At the age of 18 Alberto was a millionaire as his father had given him a trust fund and sent him to Paris to study. In 1892, Alberto’s father sold his company realizing none of his children were interested in taking the family business over. Instead of going into the coffee business, Alberto’s studied Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy and mechanics.
In the late 1890s, Alberto returned back to Brazil. During his travels he learned of Henri Lachambre’s company that produced balloons. On his way back from Brazil he went to find the company and a day later took his first balloon trip. A day after that Alberto ordered his own balloon and while he waited for the delivery he started training to fly balloons.
Everything in his balloon had to be made of extremely light material so he would go faster; he even tried to ad a motor to the balloon which didn´t fulfill his expectations.
Between the years 1898 and 1906 ALberto built 11 airships. In 1903, he flew his airship he named ‘’La Baladeuse’’ around and used the street Avenue de Champs-Élysées as a landing site. A year later he went to the United States and was invited to visit the White house to meet President Roosevelt. Because of his popularity around the world and his achievements he was and to this day is a folk hero in his native Brazil.
In 1905 Alberto had finished his first airplane and helicopter design. By 1906 he flew an aircraft called 14-bis for the first time. It flew 60 meters at the height of over two meters. Because of this flight and the following flights he completed Alberto was considered the first accomplished aircraft pilot of the world. He was so successful that in 1909 he flew the first Sport flight aircraft of the world named Demoiselle flying up to 120km/h. The Demoiselle was the last aircraft built by Alberto and he released the drawings of this plane for free.
It is interesting to know that the wrist watch as we know it today was also partially a doing of Alberto. He was frustrated with the watches that where available at the time, they where heavy and where kept in pockets, so he went to a friend called Louise Cartier who designed a wrist watch so Dumont didn’t need to take his hands of the control panels and was lighter than the other watches available.
Dumont had Multiple Sclerosis and therefore stopped working. It is believed that he was depressed over his illness and that he committed suicide three days after his 59th birthday.
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