Skip to comments.Pioneers of Flight: Eilmer of Malmesbury
Posted on 05/17/2014 7:58:19 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
The first known serious flight attempt in world history occurred about a thousand years before the Wright brothers, in western England. Then, a young Benedictine monk leapt with a crude pair of cloth wings from a watchtower of a church abbey at the beginning of the 11th century. This monk, known to history as Eilmer of Malmesbury, covered a furlong--a distance of approximately 600 feet--before landing heavily and breaking both legs. Afterwards, he remarked that the cause of his crash was that "he had forgotten to provide himself with a tail."
We know of Eilmer's attempt through the writings of a historian, William of Malmesbury, who mentions the flight in passing. Of more interest to William was that Eilmer, late in his life, was the first person to spot a comet, which people then credited as being an omen of the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror...
He leapt from the top of a tower, passed over a city wall, descended into a small valley by the River Avon, and then fell into a marshy field (now known as St. Aldhelm's Meadow) fully 150 feet lower than the point of his leap. Of his wings, we can surmise that they were constructed of ash or willow-wand, covered with a light cloth, and perhaps attached to pivots on either side of a back-brace, with hand-holds so he could hopefully flap them.
Given the geography of the Abbey, his landing site, and the account of his flight, he must have remained airborne about 15 seconds. At low altitude he apparently attempted to flap the wings, which threw him out of control. His post-flight assessment qualifies him as the first "test pilot," for he sought to understand, in technological terms, what happened on the flight and why he crashed...
(Excerpt) Read more at af.mil ...
William of Malmesbury, The History of the Kings of England, III, pt. 1, of Rev. Joseph Stevenson, ed., The Church Historians of England (London: Seeleys, 1854).
Lynn White, Jr., "Eilmer of Malmesbury: An Eleventh Century Aviator," Technology and Culture, II, n. 2 (Spring 1961).
Maxwell Woosnam, Eilmer: Eleventh Century Monk of Malmesbury (Malmesbury, UK: Friends of Malmesbury Abbey, 1986).
(Pioneers of Flight is a series of essays by Dr. Hallion for the History section. Future installments will cover more of these fascinating individuals, whose work and inspiration led to the aerial age.)
from his official website: "William tells this story as an aside to a description of the appearance of the comet that was later known as Halley's. Eilmer had the distinction of seeing it twice in his lifetime. He first saw it as a boy in 989, and the belief that it heralded doom was soon fulfilled when a wave of Danish attacks led to the destruction of many settlements, including the monastic establishment at Malmesbury. The second time was in 1066, and the event was swiftly followed by the Norman invasion of William the Conqueror." -- [The stained glass window of Eilmer in Malmesbury Abbey (photo by Shaun Martin)]
Eilmer, The Flying Monk
No. 3: The Flying Monk by John H. Lienhard
Eilmer of Malmesbury - the Flying Monk
Moonraking: The Folklore, The flying monk
Malmesbury Abbey and the flying monk
Sounds like he invented the hang glider. He shouldn't have tried to flap the wings.
Interesting name, "Eilmer." Maybe he was trying to catch a wascally wabbit.
Why are you so sensitive? It does nothing of the sort: you know it and the whole of FR knows it.
I don’t mind it — some years ago some joker hijacked a thread excoriating me and my ancestors and anyone else who wandered into the thread claiming that Curtis (sp?) was the genius who invented flying (even though he never took to the air until after the Wright Bros.).
So, instead of sinking civ’s we are today rising civ’s? 8<)
Or, more accurately, falling rising civ’s?
Or would that put us back to sinking civ’s from the risen tower into the falling away ground below rapidly rising towards the falling civ’s?
BTW, did Dr. Hallion also cover Rev. Burrell Cannon, of Pittsburg, Texas?
I've lectured on historic archaeology at last three times to audiences seated beneath the replica
of Cannon's "Ezekiel Airship", which supposedly flew in 1903.
Personally, I doubt that "flight": that thing is quite heavily constructed...
But what is it to me for this man tobe snatched from historical obscurity to receive the fleeting fifteen seconds of recognition he achieves, the acknowledgement of which lasting longer than any flight of fancy he gets credit for.
Johann Gambolputty-de-von-Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crass-cren-bon-fried-digger-dangle-dungle-burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelter-wasser-kurstlich-himble-eisen-bahnwagen-guten-abend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwürstel- gespurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-schönendanker-kalbsfleisch-mittleraucher-von-Hautkopft auf Ulm.
my first cousin-twice removed
FREDERICK WILLIAM LANCHESTER
For Contributions to the Fundamental Theory of Aerodynamics Citation 16th September 1931 London
Lanchester was the foremost person to propound the now famous theory of flight based on the Vortex theory, so brilliantly followed up by Prandtl and others.
He first put forward this theory in a paper read before the Birmingham Natural History and Philosophical Society on 19th June, 1894. In a second paper in 1897, in his two books published in 1907 and 1908
Built the first car in UK and patented disc brakes in 1902.
1910 Lanchester Double Landaulet Car-Engine: 3.6 liters, -42 horsepower at 2200 RPM Top Speed: 54 mph -Price: 750 pounds sterling
“The trick to flying is throwing yourself at the ground and missing.” Douglas Adams
Interesting story. And it is so cool that the stained glass window is still extant.
Dunno, I’d never heard of any of them (yours, and the topic guy, and the guy who wrote about him) until today. :’)
Ooog of Stonehenge tried it first. He, well, he broke more than his legs.
Eilmer had to learn the hard way. But when faced with a bad landing like that, cover your face and chest with your hands and arms and keep your feet and knees together!
Hey, any landing you can crawl away from... ;’)