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Henri Giffard

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Henri Giffard (1825-1882) was a French engineer. In 1852 he invented the steam injector and the powered airship.

In 1863 he was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur.

Giffard invented the injector and the powered airship with a steam engine weighing over 180 kg (400 lb); it was the world's first passenger-carrying airship (known as a Dirigible). Both practical and steerable, the hydrogen-filled airship was equipped with a 3 hp steam engine that drove a propeller. The engine was fitted with a downward pointing funnel. The exhaust steam was mixed in with the combustion gases and it was hoped by these means to stop sparks rising up to the gas bag; he also installed a vertical rudder.

1852 On 24 September Giffard made the first powered and controlled flight travelling 27 km from Paris to Trappes. The wind was too strong to allow him to make way against it, so he was unable to return to the start. However he was able to make turns and circles, proving that a powered airship could be steered and controlled. The airship was 145 feet long and 45 feet in diameter and te propellor was driven by a light steam engine of his own design.

1855 He built a second airship of slender design but it crashed on its first flight.

Giffard was granted a patent for the injector on 8 May, 1858. Unusually, he had the thoroughly worked out the theory of this invention before making any experimental instrument, having explained the idea in 1850. Others had worked on using jets, particularly Eugene Bourdon who patented a very similar device in 1857.

1859 The Academy of Sciences presentcd Giffard, with the Montyon prize, which had been awarded in 1825 to Poncelet; to Girard, the great hydraulic engineer, in 1843 ; to Triger, the inventor of sinking foundations by the aid of compressed air; in 1852 ; and to M. Lnvalley, the engineer-in-chief of the Suez Canal, in 1868.

A model of the Giffard Airship at the London Science Museum.

1878 he made the great captive balloon, which attracted so much attention in 1878 at Paris. This monster had a capacity of 26,000 cubic metres, it carried forty persons at one time, and during the exhibition more than 30,000 persons made the ascent.

In response to his declining eyesight, Giffard committed suicide in 1882, leaving his estate to the nation for humanitarian and scientific purposes. His name is one of the 72 names on the Eiffel tower.

Died in 1882. Buried on 19th April. Read his obituary in The Engineer 1882/04/28.

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