Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834-1906) was an astronomer, a pioneer of aeronautical research, and
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (1887-1906). As a youth, Langley studied civil engineering
and pursued this as a career until 1864, when his interest in astronomy led him to positions at the
Harvard Observatory, the Naval Academy, the Western University of Pennsylvania and the Allegheny
Observatory. In 1887, he became Secretary of the Smithsonian, and spent the following years in
construction and tests of aircraft. On May 6, 1896, his Aerodrome No. 5, powered with a 1hp steam
engine, flew nearly 3/4 of a mile. This flight surpassed by more than ten times the best efforts of
any predecessor. In 1898, at the request of the Army's Board of Ordnance and Fortifications, Langley
started work on another design - the Great Aerodrome, also known as Aerodrome A; however, two
attempts at launching the aircraft in 1903 failed. In addition to his scientific experiments,
Langley's writings include "Experiments in Aerodynamics," "The Internal Work
of the Wind," and the "Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight," published posthumously.
Samuel P. Langley died in Aiken, South Carolina, on February 27, 1906.