water navigation sailing dove archytas power
AERONAUTICS every stage of society men have sought, by the combination of superior skill and ingenuity, to attain those distinct and obvious advantages which nature has conferred on the different tribes of animals, by endowing them with a peculiar structure and a peculiar force of organs. The rudest savage learns from his very infancy to imitate the swimming of a fish, and plays on the surface of the water with agility and perseverance. But an art so confined in its exercise, and requiring such a degree of bodily exertion, could not be considered of much avail. It must have been soon perceived (even if the discoveries of the arts of natation and navigation were not absolutely simultaneous), that the fatigue of impulsion through the water could be greatly diminished by the support and floating of some light substance. The trunk of a tree would bear its rude proprietor along the stream ; or, hollowed out into a canoe and furnished with paddles, it might enable him even to traverse a river. From this simple fabric the step was not great to the construction of a boat or barge, impelled by the force of oars. But it was a great advance to fix masts and apply sails to the vessel, and thus substitute the power of wind for that of human labour. The adventurous sailor, instead of plying on the narrow seas or creeping timidly along the shore, could now launch with confidence into the wide ocean. Navigation, in its most cultivated form, may be fairly regarded as one of the sublimest triumphs of human genius, industry, courage, and perseverance.
Having by his skill achieved the conquest of the waters that encompass the habitable globe, it was natural for man to desire likewise the mastery of the air in which we breathe. In all ages, therefore, great ingenuity has been expended in efforts at flying, all of which have as yet resulted in failure. But the analogy between sailing on the water and sailing in the air is not so close as many enthusiasts have supposed it to be. There is a general resemblance, inasmuch as in both cases the propulsion must be made by means of a fluid.' But in the one case the fluid is inelastic, in the other elastic ; and the physicist or mathematician knows how vastly different are the properties of liquids, even in fundamental points, from those of aeriform or gaseous bodies. Again, in the one case the vessel floats on the surface of the water, in the other it must float totally immersed in the aerial fluid. A ship, while sailing, is acted on by two fluids - the water supports it and the air propels it ; but a ship sailing in the air would be only under the action of the one fluid that surrounds it on all sides. These few considerations - and many more might be added - indicate the essential distinctions between the two cases ; and a very little thought shows that it is not so remarkable as it at first sight appears, that the invention of the art of sailing on the water should be lost in prehistoric antiquity, while that of sailing in the air is not a century old; and that while navigation is one of the most perfect of the arts, the power of directing a body floating in the air still remains unattained. Many have argued, that because navigation is an accomplished fact, therefore the navigation of the air must be possible ; and without denying the truth of the conclusion, it is worth while at the outset of this article to point out the fallacy of the reasoning. It is true that there is no reason to despair of the attainment of aerial navigation, as the history of invention and science records many victories as great and at one time apparently as far off ; still, it is as well to notice how little assistance the old discovery affords towards the solution of the new: it may, indeed, even be that progress has been retarded by the false analogy, for we may feel pretty certain The subject of aerostation is scarcely ever alluded to by the classical writers, and the fable of Daedalus and Icarus, and the dove of Archytas, form almost all we have to record in relation to flying previous .to the dark ages. Dmdalus, an -Athenian, killed his nephew Talus through jealousy of his talents, and fled with his son Icarus to Crete, where he built the celebrated labyrinth for Minos, the king. But having offended Minos, so that he was imprisoned by him, he made wings of feathers, cemented with wax, for himself and his son, so that they might escape by flight. He gave his son directions to fly neither too low nor too high, but to follow him. Icarus, however, becoming excited, forgot his father's advice, and rose so high that the heat of the sun melted the wax of his wings, and he fell into the sea near Samos, the island of Icaria and the Icarian sea being named after him. Daedalus accomplished his flight in safety. (Ovid, Met. lib. viii. Fab. iii.) The explanation of the myth may be, as has been supposed, that Daedalus used sails, which, till then, according to Pausanius and Pakephatus, were unknown, and so was enabled to escape from Minos' galleys, which were only provided with oars; and that Icarus was drowned near the island Icaria. But the whole story of Daedalus is so fanciful a romance, that it is scarcely worth while even to speculate upon what the infinitesimal fragment of truth that lay at the bottom of it may have been.
Archytas of Tarentum was a well-known geometer and astronomer, and he is apostrophised by Horace (Ode 28, lib. i.) The account of his flying pigeon or dove we owe to Aulus Gellius (Nodes Attiex), who says " that it was the model of a dove or a pigeon formed in wood, and so contrived as by a certain mechanical art and power to fly : so nicely was it balanced by weights, and put in motion by hidden and enclosed air." Gellius gives as his authorities "many men of eminence among the Greeks," whom he does not mention by name, and Favorinus the philosopher.
Archytas thus has been regarded as holding to aeronautics much about the same position as Archimedes does to the mechanical sciences ; but while the claim of the latter rests on real discoveries and great contributions to knowledge, the former owes his position merely to an unsupported and untrustworthy tradition. When the fire-balloon was invented, it was only natural that many should see in the "hidden and enclosed air" of Archytas' dove a previous discovery of the hot-air balloon. It is quite possible that Archytas may have rarefied the air in his dove by heat, and so made it ascend; but in this case it certainly could not have been made of wood. But if the dove ever was made to appear to fly, it is much the more probable that this effect was produced, as in the scenes at theatres, by means of fine strings or wires invisible to the spectators.
The ancients seem to have been convinced of the impossibility of men being able to fly, and they appear to have made no attempts in this direction at all. The power of flying was attributed only to the most powerful of the divinities ; and it was regarded as only secondary to Jupiter's prerogative of flashing the lightning and hurling the thunderbolt.