Monday, January 31, 2011

Francesco Lana de Terzi

Francesco Lana de Terzi was born in Brescia, Lombardy in the year 1631. His early life (even the date of his birth) is unknown; yet he rises to become a prominent Jesuit figure and professor of physics and mathematics at Brescia. He is considered by some to be the Father of Aeronautics as he designed a vacuum airship, which is lighter than air due to the presence of four copper foil spheres on the ship (each with a diameter of 7.5 meters) that had the air pumped out of them- as a vacuum is lighter than air. He believed that as a sphere was a perfect shape, the atmospheric pressure would not be able to crush his copper vacuum spheres, and the ship could move through the fluid medium of the air as a sailboat does – with a large sail and a rudder. His design also incorporated a method for landing the craft as the spheres had valves installed in them so that air could be allowed into the sphere, making the ship heavy enough to begin descending back to ground level. Lana’s design showed a remarkable insight in how the atmosphere behaves, as he knew the density of the atmosphere varied with height, and that his craft would not float off into space as some feared it would upon examining his design- rather he knew the aircraft would reach a buoyancy point where its weight would counteract its lift and that would be the height the craft operated at. Unfortunately Lana never built his craft; rather he feared divine intervention would not allow it: “God would surely never allow such a machine to be successful, since it would create many disturbances in the civil and political governments of mankind. Where is the man who can fail to see that no city would be proof against his surprise, as the ships at any time could be maneuvered over its public squares and houses? Fortresses, and cities could thus be destroyed, with the certainty that the aerial ship could come to no harm, as iron weights, fireballs and bombs could be hurled from a great height."

1 comment:

  1. This is very interesting. Do you know if anyone tried to recreate his design? A bit more info about his life, if there is anything available, would have been nice.


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