The Dream of Flying

Page 10




  Francesco Lana de Terzi's Flying Ship  - described in "Prodomo"  (1670)  
  Francesco Lana de Terzi (1631 –1687) was born in Lombardy in present Italy. He was a high educated Jesuit Father with great knowledge in mathematics and physics.

In 1670 he published a book that attracted much attention: “Prodomo”. It included a chapter with the description of a “flying ship”. Lana de Terzi had, inspired about the experiments with the Magdeburg hemispheres 1633, designed an airship to the principle “lighter than air”.

The airship, built on a boat hull with a mast, was to be fitted with a sail and was to be navigated as an ordinary sailing boat. The difference was the lifting devices. Four other shorter masts had a copper sphere each at the top. They were going to be about 7.5 m in diameter, the copper plating was to be very thin and, the most important thing; the spheres would be evacuated from air. According to the inventor’s calculations, this would make the ship lift.

Lana de Terzi estimated a copper sphere to 180 kg. He also estimated the air in the sphere to 290 kg. After the air was removed from the copper spheres they were to be lighter than the air in the atmosphere and the ship would lift. According to his calculations, the ship was to have a “payload” of six passengers.

At this time there existed no methods to manufacture such very thin copper plating. We also know today that a sphere of such material and with the air inside pumped away to vacuum would collapse. The idea just remained an idea and was never practically tested.


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© Lars Henriksson

Updated 2009-05-13