Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Top 10 Bungled Attempts at One-person Flight

        Science | Classic

8
Giovanni Battista Danti and Paolo Guidotti
Lake Trasimeno in southern Italy, of which Giovanni Battista Danti had a great view before he crashed.
Lake Trasimeno in southern Italy, of which Giovanni Battista Danti had a great view before he crashed.
Tino Soriano/National Geographic/Getty Images

Leo­nardo da Vinci wasn't the only Renaissance man around to try his hand at flying. One ­of Leonardo's contemporaries, the Italian mathematician Giovanni Battista Danti, was one of the many men throughout the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance to mistakenly interpret the anatomy of birds and take the motion of flapping wings a little too far. Like many other before and after him, Giovanni simply glued feathers to his arms and moved them rapidly up and down, hoping the feathers had some physical property that aided the mechanics of flight. Unfortunately, trial flights by Lake Trasimeno only ended up in violent crashes on the roof of Saint Mary's Church.

Another Renaissance man, Paolo Guidotti, who lived about 100 years later than Leonardo and Giovanni, just couldn't let go of the bird's-wing theory. Constructing wings made of whalebone (once again, covered with feathers) and curved into shape using springs, Guidotti attempted a flight that lasted about 400 yards (366 meters) before falling through a roof and breaking his thigh. Like most others from his age, he concluded that painting was a safer, much more enjoyable art than aviation.

Leonardo, Giovanni and Paolo were all in their 50s when they attempted to fly, but the person who took the next leap of faith was much younger. Read on to learn about the painful truth.


More to Explore