When we look back to the dawn of aviation, we can trace these sweeping changes back to a few pioneers. When we think of the 'fathers of flight,' we immediately picture the Wright Brothers. But they weren't the first to bear that title.
German pioneer Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) was. Although he never successfully flew a powered plane, he was the first to build and fly winged aircraft. His gliders are the ancestors of today's airplanes and gliders. And his research on the flight mechanics of birds forms the basis of modern wing design.