Francesco Lana de Terzi


Francesco Lana de Terzi

Francesco Lana de Terzi (Brescia, Lombardy ca. 1631 – 22 February 1687) was an Italian Jesuit and aeronautics pioneer. He sketched a concept for an airship and the idea that developed into Braille.

He was born in Brescia, Lombardy.

Airship design

In the year 1670 Francesco Lana de Terzi published a book titled "Prodomo", including a chapter entitled "saggio di alcune invenzioni nuove premesso all'arte maestra" (“To test some premised new inventions of the master artist”) which contained the description of a “flying ship”. Encouraged by the experiments of Otto von Guericke with the Magdeburg hemispheres, in the year 1663 Lana de Terzi had developed an idea for a lighter than air vessel.

His airship design - while never having been built - had a central mast, to which a sail was attached. The airship would be steered like a sailboat. Its design called for four masts which had copper spheres attached. The spheres would be made of very thin copper foil, and each sphere would have a diameter of 7.5 meters (about 24.5 feet). Terzi had calculated that the weight of a sphere would be 180 kilograms (396 lb). He also calculated that a sphere containing air would weigh 290 kilograms (638 lb). The copper spheres would be pumped to vacuum conditions, and thus being lighter than the surrounding air, would provide enough lift for 6 passengers to ride along in the airship.

At the time no one possess the ability to manufacture such thin copper foil, besides, the pressure of the surrounding air would have flattened the spheres. Its idea was never practically tested. In addition, Francesco Lana de Terzi was conscious that one could use such a vehicle as a weapon of war and attack cities from air. He wrote: “"God will never allow that such a machine be built…because everybody realises that no city would be safe from raids…".

The fact that such an airship with vacuum spheres was physically not possible wasn't proven until 1710 by Gottfried William Leibniz, and to this day such a vessel hasn't been built. A model of Lana de Terzi's invention is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C..

External links

* [http://www.pilotundluftschiff.de/zzPL0076.jpgillustration of Francesco Lana de Terzi's airship]
* [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Francesco_Lana Biography] in the Catholic Encyclopedia


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