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British Industrial History

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Francis Herbert Wenham

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Francis Herbert Wenham (1824-1908)

In 1866, the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain was founded. This organization attracted some of the most outstanding engineers and scientists of the day. At the first meeting of the society, an engineer, Francis Herbert Wenham, delivered a paper, “Aerial Locomotion,” which became an aviation classic. Wenham described his research into lift and aerofoils and drew the conclusion that, since most of the lift of an aerofoil is contributed by the forward section of the wing, long narrow wings would be more efficient than short stubby ones.

The ratio of the length of a wing to its width is called its “aspect ratio,” and Wenham had discovered the advantages of high aspect-ratio aerofoils. What made Wenham’s findings so important is that he had measured them in his new invention, the wind tunnel, which he built in 1871 with John Browning. Crude by today’s standards (and even when compared to the version the Wright brothers constructed), Wenham’s wind tunnel set the stage for all aerodynamic research for well over the next century.

Wenham built a model of a five-wing aircraft that he did not manage to fly successfully, but his lecture brought John Stringfellow out of retirement to redesign Henson’s Ariel as a tri-wing aeroplane. The plane was part of the world’s first aviation exhibit at London’s Crystal Palace in 1868, and this time, the more modest presentation commanded the public’s respect and attention (even though none of the Aerial Steam Carriage’s original problems had been solved).

1871 Married at Exeter to Alice Rose W. Morton

1891 Living at The Beacon, Woking: Frances H. Wenham (age 66 born Brompton), Retired Civil Engineer - Employer. With his wife Alice R. Wenham (age 33 born Exeter) and their two daughters; Alice E. Wenham (age 13 born Ealing) and Frances H. Wenham (age 3 born Shepherd's Bush). One servant.[1]

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Sources of Information

  1. 1891 Census