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Ferdinand von Zeppelin

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Pioneer Airship Designer

Born Kostantz, Baden, Germany

April 8, 1838—March 8, 1917


Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin graduated from Ludwigsburg Military Academy and received his civil engineering degree from the University of Tubigen. During the decade of the 1860s he was assigned to observe the military use of balloons in the U.S. and Europe, which convinced him of the military and commercial value of airship operations. In 1887, he published a comprehensive plan for a civil air transportation system based on large lighter-then-air ships.

Retiring from the army in 1891 with the rank of Lt. General after a distinguished 44-year career, he committed himself and his personal fortune to the design, construction and flight of airships. After overcoming many difficulties and failures born of this new science, his first successful airship made its maiden voyage on July 2. 1900—the first of a long line of ships known as "Zeppelins." By 1908, his dirigibles were making routine commercial flights carrying mail and passengers throughout Germany.

The Zeppelin qualities of streamlined-shape, light rigid framework, and maneuvering power, made them successful when heavier than air machines were yet undeveloped. His quest for a light metal led directly to the invention of Duraluminum, which was to later make the all-metal airframe practical. The success of military and civilian Zeppelins were to have a lasting effect on airpower strategists and Count von Zeppelin will always be remembered for the graceful mammoths of the sky which he pioneered.

Invested 1975 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984

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Updated: March 12, 2004