From the “Discopter” of Alexander Weygers to a hovering automotive.
A VERSION OF THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON TEDIUM, A TWICE-WEEKLY NEWSLETTER THAT HUNTS FOR THE END OF THE LONG TAIL.
Early in the summertime of 1947, an newbie pilot from Idaho named Kenneth Arnold noticed one thing within the Washington skies that sort of blew his thoughts.
Regardless of the skies being clear that day, he noticed a sequence of 9 flashes of horizontal mild. He landed, advised others what he noticed, and his story unfold by way of the favored consciousness, taking over a life by itself, in addition to a reputation—the flying saucer.
Two weeks later, a way more well-known incident in Roswell, New Mexico, involving a climate balloon (in the event you imagine what the federal government tells you), additional cemented the concept of the flying saucer within the public consciousness.
Not lengthy after, hobbyists of every kind abruptly felt impressed make their very own—and so they’ve been flooding the patent workplaces globally ever since.
However the man who bought to the U.S. Patent Workplace first, surprisingly, wasn’t truly impressed by the favored notion of the UFO in any respect. He had the concept, actually, years earlier than Kenneth Arnold took his fateful flight.
The Dutch painter and sculpture artist Alexander Weygers, who grew up within the Dutch East Indies—now Indonesia—and spent most of his grownup life within the U.S., was one thing of a 20th-century Leonardo da Vinci. He had each an engineering and creative background, and his work spanned sculpture, illustrations, images, and plenty of different fields.
In 1927, he conceptualized a tool that predicted the infatuation with alien craft earlier than they even had that title. And as an engineer, he did so with a sensible eye towards the failings of the gadget he hoped to switch.
“Helicopters are weak,” he mentioned in an interview with UPI in 1985. “Folks had been being killed in them through the 1920s. They go down like a brick. The saucer turned the logical reply.”
His creativity was pushed by tragedy. In 1928, his spouse died throughout childbirth, as did his son. The painful incident ended up pushing him nearer to artwork, with the losses inspiring a few of his most notable sculptures.
An analogous tragedy—the seize of his household, nonetheless within the Dutch East Indies, by Japanese forces throughout World Struggle II—pushed him within the early 1940s to finish his saucer challenge, which he had first began within the 1920s. He known as the gadget a “Discopter.”
The thought was impressed not by spaceships or science fiction, however by a sensible need to create a car that could possibly be used to rescue folks in incidents not in contrast to the one which confronted his relations. His body of reference was his personal prior work.
He filed for a patent in 1944, and that patent was granted the subsequent 12 months. A key passage from that patent:
To a helicopter, a craft constructed on the ideas of my invention bears a superficial resemblance in that each varieties are sustained by a minimum of one horizontal rotor. From this level on, nonetheless, all similarity between the 2 kinds of flying craft ends. A craft embodying my invention is distinguished from a helicopter in that the rotor or rotors in my craft are enclosed inside a considerably vertical tunnel, the rotor thought to be an entire is mainshaftless and the exterior type of the craft shouldn’t be very completely different from the acquainted discus of the athlete, in frequent with which the craft enjoys sure aerodynamic benefits attribute of the passage of the discus via the air. Not solely the rotors and energy plant compartments however the entire traditional transferring and glued protruding components, current in each airplanes and helicopters, reminiscent of stabilizing and directing means and in any other case, are totally enclosed throughout the strikingly easy and cleanly streamlined contour line of the craft when regarded from exteriorly thereof in any elevation view, thereby concealing from the informal view such components.
Alexander Weygers wasn’t making an attempt to invent the flying saucer. He was making an attempt to reinvent the helicopter, together with aviation generally, in order that it could possibly be used extra virtually. (It ought to be famous that the gadget was by no means constructed.)
However the existence of all the pieces that got here afterwards meant that his title would eternally be related to futurism and science fiction, parts that didn’t truly encourage his invention.
Quickly after the flying saucer hit the general public consciousness within the late 1940s, folks seen what Weygers had accomplished. A 1950 article within the Allentown, Pennsylvania, Morning Name, devoted column area to a dentist named Dr. Harold T. Frendt, who used the existence of the patent to argue towards the existence of aliens. Frendt recommended that the patents had been getting used to create these saucers, regardless of his solely proof being Weygers’ patent.
“They need to be operated at excessive altitudes as an alternative of exposing them for remark to most of the people and the pro-communistically inclined, and thereby stimulating a development of silly hypothesis,” Frendt advised the newspaper on the time.
Frendt’s assertion is ironic, as a result of he’s additionally speculating. There in all probability was no flying saucer.
Whereas Weygers was actually first, the oldsters that adopted him clearly had been impressed by no matter occurred in Washington and New Mexico again in 1947, maybe with a little bit contact of H.G. Wells within the combine as effectively.
As quickly as there was a well-liked “spark,” the inspiration that had us wanting up within the sky and questioning what if, the saucer was all over the place. It’s been conserving patent workplaces all over the world busy ever since—first, with a spate of flying saucer toys within the early 1950sthat regarded like frisbees, and shortly, within the type of plane clearly impressed by alien craft, like this 1953 design and this helicopter/flying saucer hybrid.
Buried within the USPTO’s many classifications for airplanes and helicopters is the indexing code “B64C 39/001,” which represents “flying automobiles characterised by sustainment with out aerodynamic elevate, typically flying disks having a UFO-shape.” Sure, USPTO bought so many patent purposes for alien craft that it earned its personal classification.
So what number of flying saucer patents are we speaking about? In keeping with Google Patents, round 192 objects on this particular classification are listed as being produced within the U.S., with three specific surges of their creation—an preliminary soar within the years between 1953 and 1956, a second wind between 1965 and 1971, and an unusually dramatic surge in such innovations between the years 2001 and 2004. USPTO dealt with 37 flying saucer-related patents throughout that significantly busy time in U.S. diplomatic historical past.
There’s lots to have a look at, and it’s totally potential that because of the complexity of the patent system, this doesn’t cowl all the pieces. Luckily, somebody with a pseudonym and apparently a considerable amount of time already did an enormous quantity of curation for you.
Earlier this 12 months, an Web Archive consumer named Superboy collected greater than 100 flying saucer patent filings spanning the previous 75 years or so. It took the consumer over three months to collect the paperwork from the U.S. patent workplaces and different patent workplaces globally, and is break up upover two pages.
(Superboy helpfully famous that the paperwork show “that people have obtained and integrated alien craft for private and secret use.”)
A few of the patents seem like huge frisbees; others like tiny, squat planets; and others nonetheless seem like they’ve taken clear inspiration from films set in area. (And naturally, Weygers’ groundbreaking craft made the listing. It needed to.)
Most patents had been credited to people, with a handful of corporations concerned.
The weirdest such purposes—although ultimately withdrawn—got here from a person named John Quincy St. Clair. Folks have been wonderingabout St. Clair for years. In the course of the 2000s, he filed for for dozens of patents for all types of weird issues. (It ought to be famous that submitting for a patent isn’t low cost, even when it’s withdrawn.) Amongst his biggest hits: a “magnetic vortex wormhole generator” and a “strolling by way of partitions coaching system,” which comes full with directions on learn how to print the “coaching system” utilizing a house printer.
One in all his purposes, from 2006, was for one thing known as a “photon spacecraft.” “This invention is a spacecraft propulsion system that employs photon particles to generate a discipline of unfavorable vitality in an effort to produce elevate on the hull,” he wrote.
In fact, not each flying saucer patent has been produced by a hobbyist, an eccentric inventor, or an engineer who turned tragedy into creativity.
A few of the largest corporations on this planet have sometimes taken curiosity within the flying saucer concept. In 2014, for instance, Airbus invented a tool that has lots in frequent with the trendy flying saucer, but in addition appears to be like like a stealth fighter jet with a donut within the center.
As CNBC reported on the time, it wasn’t supposed for both outer area or the army—it was a reinvention of the passenger jet that was supposed to assist scale back cabin stress. And there’s likelihood we’ll by no means even see it.
“It’s simply certainly one of many concepts,” an organization spokesman advised Fortune. “It doesn’t imply that we’re going to be engaged on making it a actuality.”
That truly sounds considerably sedated in comparison with an try by the British Rail to patent a spacecraft that relied on “managed thermonuclear fusion response.”
And naturally, the long run could have room for a flying saucer—or a minimum of a flying automotive—but. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported final 12 months, Google co-founder Larry Web page has been investing within the concept of flying automobiles for years by way of his startups Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk, with Weygers cited as an early inspiration for what might come subsequent.
Earlier this 12 months, Kitty Hawk launched a video for a product that, in the event you squint onerous sufficient, shares a lineage with what Weygers did means again when, with perhaps inspiration from all of the issues which have come alongside since.
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