The world knows the Wright Brothers as the inventors of the aeroplane, but there is a man in India named Shivkar Bapuji Talpade who had already invented the aeroplane before the Wright brother's first flight. What kind of evidence does this have?

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  • Ohk i will check it out
    – Om Desle
    Nov 28, 2017 at 19:01
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    Note that the Wright brothers are known for inventing "the first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight", not just any flying construct. Talpade's is apparently unmanned. The history of aviation is long and complex.
    – Semaphore
    Nov 28, 2017 at 19:16
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because no initial research Nov 28, 2017 at 19:46
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    @sds No, it's not a duplicate. This question is about events before 1903. That question is about events after 1909! Nov 28, 2017 at 20:33

1 Answer 1


The question of who invented the aeroplane is a contentious one.

The first manned flight occurred at some point before 1849 in an aeroplane designed and built by Sir George Cayley. The plane was based on principles from his landmark three-part treatise "On Aerial Navigation" (1809–1810), which was published in Nicholson's Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts (generally known as "Nicholson's Journal" some 4 decades earlier [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3].

Cayley's aeroplane was a glider (or "convertiplane" as he termed it). The pilot was a 10 year-old child (whose name has been lost to history).

The Wright brothers carried out the first "sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight" in 1903, and they were happy to acknowledge that they had built on Cayley's work. In fact, in a speech to the Royal Aero Club in London in 1909, Wilbur Wright is reported to have said:

“About 100 years ago an Englishman, Sir George Cayley, carried the science of flying to a point which it had never reached before and which it scarcely reached again during the last century.”

  • [Gibbs-Smith, 1962, page ix]

The question of whether Shivkar Bapuji Talpade invented an aeroplane is contentious, to say the least. Many sources that are quoted in support of the idea, for example International Journal of Yoga and Allied Sciences, make fairly wild claims without much in the way of supporting evidence (the article cited here even claims that the aeroplane was powered by an ion engine!). Perhaps Lhendup G Bhutia, writing in Open Magazine, put it best:

Much of Shivkar Bapuji Talpade's life and how he went about inventing his flying machine is cloaked in mystery. He is a much-discussed subject on some websites, much of the conversation soaked in faux nationalism and less in research.

Sadly, unlike George Cayley's flying machine, we have no published research by Shivkar Bapuji Talpade to support these claims. He may have invented an unmanned flying machine in the late 19th century. It may even have successfully flown. But without evidence the claims cannot stand.


  • I don't think it is proper to call a glider "an airplane". (Is a kite also an "airplan"?)
    – Alex
    Nov 28, 2017 at 21:03
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    @Alex In the case of Cayley's aircraft, it was apparently a biplane with aerodynamic controls (horizontal stabilisers and a vertical fin), so yes, I'd call it an aeroplane. In any case, that is the term used to described it in the Journal of Aeronautical History article linked in my answer, so I'll defer to their expertise on this one. Nov 28, 2017 at 21:15
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    @Alex Furthermore, since the term "aeroplane" for heavier-than-air aircraft dates from 1873 (which was some 30 years before powered flight), it seems to me to be entirely appropriate in this context. Nov 28, 2017 at 21:44
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    But then many people before Wright brothers should be mentioned, for example Otto Lilienthal who certainly performed "sustained and controlled flight" on his gliders.
    – Alex
    Nov 28, 2017 at 21:48
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    @Alex If this were an answer about the history of manned flight, then I agree there would be many others. It isn't. The question is "Who invented the aeroplane?", (with a further reference to Shivkar Bapuji Talpade). George Cayley was the first to build and fly a manned aeroplane (or, at least, the first for which we have evidence). The Wright brothers were the first to achieve sustained & controlled powered, manned flight. There is no evidence to support the claims about Shivkar Bapuji Talpade. That answers the question. Nov 28, 2017 at 21:54

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