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).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Aviation: Biographies