Home > Lilienthal > Biography

Short Biography of Otto Lilienthal

(For a detailed biography of Lilienthal see Raffel/Lukasch: "The flying Man".)

The Californian Christopher Dempsey has composed a very sensitive biographical poem about Otto Lilienthal.

A family tree of Otto Lilienthal (beginning circa 1720 and descending down to his children) is available on this website.

23. 5. 1848 Born in Anklam, Pomerania Province, German Kingdom of Prussia.
1856 - 1864 Grammar school in Anklam; His school subjects included the study of birds, as well as mathematics under the noted astronomer Gustav Spörer.
1864 - 1866 Regional Technical School in Potsdam
1866/1867 Internship at the Schwartzkopff Company in Berlin (mechanical engineering)
1867 - 1870 Royal Technical Academy in Berlin
from 1867 First experiments, the results of which can be found in his book (published 1889) about the physics principles underlying human flight
1870/71 Voluntary one year military service as a fusilier in the Franco-Prussian War during the siege of Paris
1871 Employment at the Weber Company (mechanical engineering firm), Berlin
from 1872 Construction engineer at the C. Hoppe Machine Factory , Berlin
1873 The Lilienthal brothers became members of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain. Lilienthal gives his first public lecture about the theory of the flight of birds.
from 1874 Systematic experiments on the force of air on artificial wings emploing models and kites and outdoor experiments on the characteristics of wind
1877 Patent on a machine used in mining - the first of 25  patents by Lilienthal (among these were 4 aviation patents)
11. 6. 1878 Marriage to Agnes Fischer, daughter of a miner
1879 Birth of son Otto (the first of four children)
Invention of what was later known as the "Anker-Steinbaukasten" (stone building blocks for children) together with Gustav Lilienthal
1883 Founded mechanical engineering company for boilers and steam engines in Berlin
1886 Membership in the "Deutscher Verein zur Förderung der Luftschiffahrt" (German Association for Promotion of Airship Navigation) in Berlin
1889 Original German publication of the book "Birdflight as the basis of aviation" (English translation published in 1911)
1890 Lilienthal introduces a 25% profit sharing scheme for the workers in his company. First experiments with manned flying machines
1891 Jumps and first flights over a distance of about 80 feet in Derwitz/Krilow near Potsdam
1892 Improved Flights with a new glider. Active interest in the Berlin 'Volkstheater' (People's Theatre)
1893 Construction of a flight station near to home. Commencement of practice flights in the Rhinow Hills (Stölln/Rhinow near Neustadt/Dosse). Glides of up to a distance of about 800 feet.
Construction of several flying machines, among these a flapping wing machine driven by a motor.
Construction of the Fliegeberg (flight hill) which still exists in Lichterfelde, Berlin
1894 Serial production of the Normalsegelapparat (Normal Glider)
1895 Visits by flight technicians from several countries, among these S. P. Langley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and N. J. Zhukowsky, aerodynamics expert from Moscow.
1896 New experiments in the field of flapping wings
9.8.1896 Crash after an unsuccessful attempt to steer a "Normal glider" through a heat eddy
10.8.1896 Death in Berlin