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Example chart from this research

This site gathers and analyzes data about the processes leading to the invention of the airplane and the start of the airplane industry around the world. We keep pages on each of many items related to those technologies and the early industry and the people who made it happen. Data is integrated qualitatively and quantitatively, approached from multiple angles, as we draw data from multiple sources, multiple types of sources, antique or modern, analogue or digital, with page functions evolved so as to explicate items as they are quantifiably contextualized relative to other items and as they fall into categories. We keep some items that turn out not to be related, in order to make clear why they are left out of some analyses. We aim for complete coverage of these items up to 1916, and a few thereafter.

Our data on aero patents and publications extend from the time that controlled flight was a dream to the time when it worked, becomes the core technology of a startup industry, and then a major industry supplying the military in WWI.

The invention of feasible aviation is a polar case of highly uncertain innovation, insofar as there was not confidence that controllable aircraft could be built and how they would be designed. We can infer that there was high uncertainty from the fact that few firms were involved in the experimentation and research until its viability was proven in 1903-06.

We track “innovation” activity, apart from whether an invention or product "succeeds". Patents are countable, and we have learned the techniques to combine patents from different countries together. Some are literally re-filings of the same invention in a new country. We try to characterize high quality patents and low quality patents. High quality patents have inventions that are original, useful, implementable, and are more likely to be cited by later patents.


Most of the pages have a row of structured (table) data on them, and explanatory text.

Here are some of the tables and lists on this site:

Work in progress

Further notes and connections

We track institutions and factors that support or otherwise relate to aero innovation in this period, e.g. patent institutions, patent agents, national diffeences, administrative culture, patent classification systems, etc. These factors influence what data we see, too. The relevant inventors, authors, and other players were connected in information networks, and/or “social networks”. The incipient airplane industry builds on earlier networks associated with ballooning, and this affects the Industrialization‎ of manufacturing aircraft.

If you want use or add to the data please cite this wiki as a dataset or contact us -- see About this site.