Timeline of aviation before the 18th century

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of aviation
pre-18th century
18th century
19th century
20th century begins
21st century begins

This is a list of aviation-related events occurring before the end of the 17th century (on December 31, 1700):


  • c. 1700 BC
  • c. 1000 BC
    • Flying machines called Vimanas are mentioned in the Vedas with detailed description of its working.[citation needed] Recreation of the technology has not been possible due to lack of materials (like mentioned fuel) are not found.[citation needed]
  • c. 850 BC
  • c. 500 BC
    • The Chinese start to use kites.
  • c. 400 BC
    • The Chinese invent an early form of the Bamboo-copter using feathers.
    • The Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum demonstrates an artificial pigeon on a wire. It may have been a kite.
  • c. 200 BC
  • c. 100 AD
    • When Wang Mang tried to recruit a specialist scout to Xiong Nu, a man binding himself with bird feathers glides about 100 meters.[2]

Middle Ages

Modern Era

  • c. 1485 – c. 1513
  • c. 1500
  • c. 1558
  • 1595
    • Fausto Veranzino illustrates a design for a parachute in his book Machinae novae (New machines). His "homo volans" (Flying man) design is based on the sail of a ship.[8]
  • 1630
  • 1633
  • 1638
  • 1644
  • 1654
    • Physicist and mayor of Magdeburg, Otto von Guericke measures the weight of air and demonstrates his famous Magdeburger Halbkugeln (hemispheres of Magdeburg).Sixteen horses are unable to pull apart two completely airless hemispheres which stick to each other only because of the external air pressure.
  • 1670
    • Jesuit Father Francesco Lana de Terzi describes in his treatise Prodomo a vacuum-airship-project, considered the first realistic, technical plan for an airship. His design is for an aircraft with a boat-like body equipped with a sail, suspended under four globes made of thin copper; he believes the craft would rise into the sky if air was pumped out of the globes.[10] No example is built, and de Terzi writes: God will never allow that such a machine be built…because everybody realises that no city would be safe from raids…
  • 1679
    • Italian physicist Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, the father of biomechanics, shows in his treatise On the movements of animals that the flapping of wings with the muscle power of the human arm cannot successfully produce flight.
  • 1687


  1. ^ a b Gunston, 2001 p.12
  2. ^ Book of Han, Biography of Wang Mang, 或言能飞,一日千里,可窥匈奴。莽辄试之,取大鸟翮为两翼,头与身皆著毛,通引环纽,飞数百步堕
  3. ^ (永定三年)使元黄头与诸囚自金凤台各乘纸鸱以飞,黄头独能至紫陌乃堕,仍付御史中丞毕义云饿杀之。(Rendering: [In the 3rd year of Yongding, 559], Gao Yang conducted an experiment by having Yuan Huangtou and a few prisoners launch themselves from a tower in Ye, capital of the Northern Qi. Yuan Huangtou was the only one who survived from this flight, as he glided over the city-wall and fell at Zimo [western segment of Ye] safely, but he was later executed.) Zizhi Tongjian 167.
  4. ^ Harding, John (2006), Flying's strangest moments: extraordinary but true stories from over one thousand years of aviation history, Robson, pp. 1–2, ISBN 1-86105-934-5 
  5. ^ Lynn Townsend White, Jr. (Spring, 1961). "Eilmer of Malmesbury, an Eleventh Century Aviator: A Case Study of Technological Innovation, Its Context and Tradition", Technology and Culture 2 (2), p. 97-111 [100–101].
  6. ^ a b c Gunston, 2001 p.13
  7. ^ Choniates, Historia
  8. ^ Wragg, D.; Flight before flying, Osprey, 1970.
  9. ^ Winter, Frank H. (1992). "Who First Flew in a Rocket?", Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 45 (July 1992), p. 275-80.
  10. ^ Allward, Maurice, An Illustrated History of Seaplanes and Flying Boats, New York: Dorset Press, 1981, ISBN 0-88029-286-5, pp. 9–11.
  • Gunston, Bill, ed. (2001). Aviation Year by Year. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7894-7986-9. 
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