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Inventor, Aviation Pioneer
1871 - 1946
Born at Bakkebolle, Denmark, June 14, 1871, Jacob Christian Ellehammer was apprenticed as a youth to a watchmaker. He developed his skills in miniature devices and later taught himself the principles of electricity and the internal combustion engine. His early commercial success with a motorcycle design permitted him to indulge his pursuit of powered flight.
His studies of birds enabled him to calculate the horsepower required to fly and to translate these calculations into his own design of a radial engine. Incredibly, Ellehammer continued to experiment unaware of the Wright's first flight in December of 1903, and, on September 12, 1906 became the first European to fly an airplane. His feat was accomplished on the tiny island of Lindholm and consisted of a flight of 421 meters at an altitude of 50 centimeters. The rapid aviation success of other Europeans led Ellehammer to shift his focus to vertical flight craft and in 1912 he succeeded in making a helicopter rise from the ground.
An unfortunate accident to one of his aircraft in 1916 caused him to halt his aviation experiments until 1930 when his earlier interest was reawakened. He thereafter continued to aid in the development of Danish aviation until his death in 1946.
Jacob Christian Ellehammer's life exemplified the inquisitiveness of the inventor and the daring and courage of the pioneer. His practical contributions opened the way for European aviation development.
Invested 1986 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame
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