Octave Chanute Papers

Octave Chanute, born in Paris in 1832, was one of America's leading civil engineers, specializing in railroads and railroad bridges with the first bridge across the Missouri River to his credit. After developing a reputation as a scientist, writer and speaker, Chanute's interests turned to the possibility of flight. Beginning in 1891 he wrote a series of articles on his research and published them in book form, making him the first aviation historian. In 1896 he designed and constructed four gliders aided by William Avery and Augustus Herring, testing them on the Indiana shores of Lake Michigan. The Chanute team made more than 1,000 manned flights without accident, and with a few modifications his 2-surfaced glider was to become the prototype of all modern biplanes. As he grew older, Chanute turned to writing, speaking and corresponding with inventors to encourage them to continue where he had left off. He died at the age of 78 in 1910, one of the foremost pioneers in aviation.