THE subject of my paper—flying-machines—in a general way, is of interest to everybody. But, to those who have given it more particular attention, it is not only interesting but fascinating, and a little dangerous. The pathway has been strewed with wrecks; and I fear there is a feeling prevalent that, after all, it leads nowhere in particular, unless it be to the almshouse or lunatic asylum.
Still, there are times when we heartily envy the birds their wonderful power. I remember in reading, I think, Mr. Wallace's book on the Amazons, that he was once standing on the shore of the mighty river, confronted by an impenetrable wall of green, concealing within itself doubtless no end of new plants and beetles; and when a gayly painted macaw came sailing lazily along and disappeared behind the tree-tops without any sort of trouble, he gave vent emphatically to the general wish to fly, and to a feeling of surprise that apparently so simple a problem should have remained so long unsolved.
I propose here to give an account of some of the attempts to fly that have been made in the past, and are now being made; and to try to explain the principles involved, and why success has not been achieved.
The old Greeks and Romans very sensibly appear to have been content to give the gods and birds and butterflies a monopoly of the air; for, excepting the story of Dædalus and Icarus, little mention has been made by classical writers of attempts to fly, or of flying-machines.
Dædalus, it seems, had killed a man in Athens, and with his unfortunate son fled to Crete, where King Minos very properly detained