Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,109 pages of information and 233,634 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Alphonse Penaud

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Alphonse Pénaud (May 31, 1850 – October 22, 1880), was a 19th-century French pioneer of aviation, inventor of the rubber powered model airplane Planophore and a founder of the aviation industry.

Pénaud was born in Paris into a family of sailors and his father was an admiral. Because of health problems, he was not able to attend the Naval School.

At 20, he began studying aviation and joined the Société aéronautique de France. He became vice-president of the society in 1876 and participated in the publication of the journal L'Aéronaute.

He built and sold ornithopters as well as propeller-driven models, and with Paul Gauchot designed an amphibious monoplane with retractable undercarriage. He died by committing suicide.

In 1878 Milton Wright gave his two younger sons, Wilbur and Orville, a toy "helicopter" which was based on a design of Pénaud and the earlier British aviation scientist George Cayley. In their adult years, the Wright brothers cited these toys as an early inspiration for their interest in flight.

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