Alberto Santos-Dumont (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Santos-Dumont, a leading European aviator during the period of early development of manned flight, is recognized as an inventor and innovative designer in both major categories of flight: lighter than air (airships) and heavier than air (airplanes). Working with semirigid airships, he adapted the internal-combustion engine as a source of power for lighter-than-air vehicles, and he was the first to design, build, and fly a heavier-than-air machine in Europe. Two of the airplanes he designed and built played a major role in the development of European aviation.
Alberto Santos-Dumont was born in Brazil, the third son and the last of seven children of Francisca Santos and Henriques Dumont, known as the Brazilian “coffee king.” An avid reader, especially of Jules Verne’s science fiction, Alberto was enthralled by the idea that man might fly, and he was also fascinated by machinery. At an early age, he drove the huge steampowered tractors and locomotives that transported coffee beans to the processing plant. There, the young Santos-Dumont would observe how the machines operated, and he soon became adept at making needed repairs. During a visit to the Palace of Industry in Paris, Alberto was completely captivated by a working exhibit of an internal-combustion engine, the first he had ever seen. He bought an automobile, to which he applied his mechanical talents, and he was soon able to...
(The entire section is 2258 words.)
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