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Alexander Martin Lippisch

 

 

Pioneer German Aerodynamist

1894 - 1976

Born in Munich, Germany, on 2 November 1894. Received his Engineering Doctorate degree from Heidelberg University in Physical Sciences.

His aviation career plans interrupted by service in the German Army in World War I, he was finally assigned to work with the Zeppelin Company in 1918. The early post-war years, devoted to theoretical studies and experiments with advanced and unique approaches to high-speed aircraft performance, produced his first successful tailless design, a glider, in 1921. Because the designs he proposed were considered radical departures from the norms of aero design of that period, financial support for his work was difficult to acquire, but his great faith and determination finally won out.

By the time he had flown a rocket powered glider in 1928 (the first rocket powered flight in history) he had developed all the elements of aerodynamic theory to confirm that tailless delta wing high speed aircraft were possible and by 1934 he proposed such a design.

With his employment by the Messerschmitt Company in 1939, and with the priorities of World War II, Lippisch designed and successfully demonstrated in 1940 the rocket powered ME 163 interceptor at speeds in excess of 600 MPH...a world record. By the next year, the aircraft flew 754 MPH and climbed to 30,000 feet in 2.5 minutes. Manned rocket powered flight was now a part of aero history.

As Director of the Aeronautical Research Institute of Vienna, Alexander Lippisch confirmed that supersonic designs where the delta wing excelled were possible. With his emigration to the United States in 1946, he continued work on these theories for the U.S. Air Force. His subsequent endeavors with the aero industries were devoted to ground effects experiments - sadly brought to an end by his death on 11 February 1976.

Invested 1985 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame


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Updated: March 12, 2004