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Alexandr Fyodorovich Mozhaisky (1825-1890)


Alexandr Fyodorovich Mozhaisky, Russian naval officer, aviation pioneer, researcher and inventor in the design of heavier-than-air-craft. The son of a naval officer, he was born on March 9 (21), 1825 in Rochensalm, Viborg district (now present-day Kotka, Finland).

He followed in the footsteps of his father and upon completion of his education at the Naval Cadet School in 1841, he served in the navy from 1841 to 1862. Later he also served in the navy from 1879 to 1882.

Model of Mozhaisky monoplane of 1884

In the 1860's he began to give serious thought and consideration to the possibility of creating a flying machine which was heavier than air. He studied the structure of birds' wings, determining the relationship between the wing areas and the weight of birds of various species. He next turned his attention to the flights of air kites. At the same time he studied the work of air screws. it was at this time that he sought and received from the Military Ministry funding for his research.

But in 1878 when he sought a new commission from the government, that request was denied and he had to proceed on his own. For the study of the resistance of air to the movement of bodies, Mozhaiskii created an original experimental apparatus with the aid of which he carried out very accurate determinations of aerodynamic strength. On June 4,1880 he petitioned to receive a license for his airplane and on November 3, 1881 he received the first patent in Russia for his invention.

Model of Mozhaisky monoplane of 1884

He had submitted drawings which showed that he had all of the five basic parts of the contemporary airplanes: wings, hull, power arrangement, tail assembly, and chassis. in 1881, with a government grant of 2,500 rubles, he purchased two 20- and 10-horsepowersteam engines for his "flying device". The construction was completed by 1882, but the record of the flight has not been preserved. Nevertheless this was the first time in the world that there had been a flight of a heavier-than-air "flying machine".

What records that do exist indicate that his attempt resulted in the crash of his "flying machine", but that he continued with his research into aerodynamics and air propellers. The significant contribution which Mozhaiskii from a historical point of view made lay in the fact that he made the first practical attempts to build a piloted air craft. He died in Saint Petersburg on March 20 1890.