Ornithopters: mechanical birds

In 1889 Charles Bayliss photographed Lawrence Hargrave's collection of model ornithopters, or flying machines. Three examples can be viewed below. These have been digitally enhanced and animated to demonstrate their motion in flight and through a 360 degree rotation.

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Hargrave later presented a selection of Bayliss's photographs to the Engineering Association of New South Wales, in an album entitled 'The evolution of the flying machine'. He enclosed the following letter:

Lawrence Hargrave's note

Letter to the Engineering Association of New South Wales, Mar 1889, by Lawrence Hargrave
Manuscript MLMSS 7583

 

Transcription

Presented to the Engineering Association of New South Wales

The absence of any description of these twenty-five photographs might appear to be an oversight, but it is intentional as after long consideration I am convinced that a careful inspection of the plates can not fail to show the thoughtful mechanic the use of every part of the various machines.

By consigning the pictorial record of a portion of this work to your keeping experimenters will be saved much time and labour; and although some persons may now think it a waste of energy to make such structures, the time must surely soon come when numerous workers will devote their undivided attention to the development of some or all of the various types shown here.

An expressed demand for rapid locomotion is all that is necessary to bring into existance as diverse a variety of flying machines as we see in nature.

Lawrence Hargrave
Sydney March 1899

 > View the full collection of Bayliss' photographs