Cover image for Innovation and the development of flight
Innovation and the development of flight
Launius, Roger D.
First edition.
Publication Information:
College Station : Texas A&M University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 335 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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TL515 .I49 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Perhaps no technological development in the century has more fundamentally transformed human life than the airplane and its support apparatus. The nature of flight, and the activities that it has engendered throughout the world, makes the development of aviation technology an important area of investigation. Why did aeronautical technology take the shape it did? Which individuals and organizations were involved in driving it? What factors influenced particular choices of technologies to be used? More importantly, how has innovation affected this technology?

Innovation and the Development of Flight, a first strike at the "new aviation history," represents a significant transformation of the field by relating the subject to larger issues of society, politics, and culture, taking a more sophisticated view of the technology that few historians have previously attempted.

This volume moves beyond a focus on the artifact to emphasize the broader role of the airplane and, more importantly, the entire technological system. This suggests that many unanswered questions are present in the development of modern aviation and that inquisitive historians seek to know the relationships of technological systems to the human mind.

Some of the subjects discussed are early aeronautical innovation and government patronage; the evolution of relationships among airports, cities, and industry; the relationship of engine development to the entire aviation industry; the Department of Commerce's influence on light plane development; pressure in the Air Force for the development of jet engines; and lessons of the National Aerospace Plane Program.

Aviation historians and historians of technology will find Innovation and the Development of Flight a valuable examination of aeronautical innovation providing foundations for continued explorations of this field.

Author Notes

Roger D. Launius is chief historian, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He has written or edited more than twenty books.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Editor Launius, NASA chief historian, follows his "introduction" with a dozen chapters that span the evolution of aviation from the early days of the Wright brothers to the continuing research on hypersonic airliners. One of the most interesting essays is that of the editor himself. More that just a skillful introduction to the pieces that follow, Launius ranges over the universe of engineering, research, and innovation, assessing the evolution of aeronautics within the context of the innovation process. He calls special attention to the "new aviation history," which considers aeronautical trends and events against a larger perspective of society, politics, and culture. Among the topics are discussions of the evolution of airports as part of the aviation infrastructure, the long search for reliable instrument landing systems, the significance of chemical engineering in the development of high octane fuels, the role of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in the design of advanced airliners of the prewar era, radar, efforts to produce affordable aircraft for the masses, and more. Valuable essays on legacies to American aviation from overseas sources, including high-speed aerodynamics, turbojets, and aspects of managing personnel and related logistics; impressive documentation. An important addition to the history of aviation and technology. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. R. E. Bilstein; University of Houston--Clear Lake