Carl Friedrich Meerwein

Carl Friedrich Meerwein ( born August 2, 1737 Leiselheim; † December 6, 1810 in Emmen things) was a German ' Margrave of Baden master builder ' and designer of a flying machine.

Life and work

The son of a preacher went after a short apprenticeship in Karlsruhe to Strasbourg to study mathematics, physics and engineering. He also studied in Jena Logic, agriculture, economic, chemistry and physics. Upon completion in "Civil Architecture" in Strasbourg he was Cammer - Accessist 1769 and received a position as a ' master builder ' Margrave of Baden. He was responsible for the entire construction industry in the ' upper Margraviate ' Emmendingen to Lörrach. Among many other things, was according to Meerwein's plans in Emmendingen 1788-90 the "New bailiwick " built in the style of classicism as an administrative building and housing for the bailiff. ( For the presumption that it had been built as a widow seat for the second wife of Margrave Karl Friedrich, Luise Karoline Geyer Geyer mountain, later Countess Hochberg, there is no evidence see:. U. Niemann in: Emmendinger city chronicle 2009 S .42 )

In addition to his professional duties he dealt with the ability to fly. During that year in Europe, many (failed ) experiments with flying machines, such as the French pioneer Jean -Pierre Blanchard. The hot air gondolas with which the Montgolfier brothers made ​​1783 a furore in June, were for Meerwein " aerostatic spheres ", the more of a "floating in the air, according to the type of fish in the water, as a fly on the type of birds ". They were not the trend for him, especially as the balloons are not controlled and could not rise even in the rain.

His study from 1782, " Upper Rhine manifolds " and in 1784 appeared in the magazine in Basel with detail drawings as a book, was based on studies of birds. Meerwein took on the proportions of the body and wings of bird species such as mallard, Harrier, Great Blue Heron, Great Bustard, mute swan, owl, jackdaw, woodcock and partridge and thus given a wing area that was necessary, in his view, so that a man could fly. In relation to his person, he came up with a wing area of ​​126 square shoe, which is about 12 m². The thus calculated from him flying machine, baptized by him ornithopter was allowed to have a maximum total weight of 200 pounds (100 kg).

The plane should be here in a special " pants" are mounted below the center of the wings. The control should be taken so that the pants will be extended and their feet - like the tail feathers of a bird - can be spread. In contrast to today's kites, which his apparatus was similar externally, were the wings - as with the birds - mobile. However Meerwein underestimated the effort that would be necessary to move the wings. In addition, the wings had no profile, which could produce lift.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica Meerwein to be succeeded in 1781 with a constructed by him ' ornithopter ' a successful flight. This would have been the first flight with muscle strength in the history of mankind. According to other sources failed alleged flight tests in 1784 and in 1785. 1784, he started allegedly with his flying machine on Castle Hill in Emmen things to an almost 150 m (!) Long flight and landed fortunately exactly on the ' dunghill of the angel host '. A second alleged attempt, which he should have done in casting in the summer of 1785, where his brother Johann August Schlettwein presided as dean of the first German University Faculty of Economics, is preserved as unsuccessful third-hand.

Even in the flight test of 1781 is an inexplicable legend. After so far no evidence could be found from the 18th and 19th century, after which there was such a test flight, sat at the beginning of the 20th century, the legend. At the beginning of Pink Hagen is, who writes in 1912: " In 1781 he had completed a flying machine, with which he made a test flight by flying down from the castle and in the court of the current guest house landed on the angels. " With the 1925 novel published " Lord Meerwein Bird " by Toni Rothmund the legend became literary honors and has since increasingly modified and extended. Similarly, there are no direct witnesses to the alleged undertaken in casting flight test. The Meerwein - researcher and former Mayor Emmendinger Ulrich Niemann writes: " Meerwein himself writes on 17 June 1784 that he had not flown that its built model is neither calculated nor its recommended and subscribed dimensions ... ".

Because of these "experiences" advised Meerwein in his work from 1784 itself: " The safest area in front of an apprentice in this new art to take the first attempt without danger to life, would be a deep water, immediately below a somewhat considerable hill: how etwann to the so-called Rheinsprung in Basel. - For anyone who falls into a somewhat deep water, which breaks neither neck nor leg, and against drowning there is sufficient storage medium ". . Obviously, he does not quite believe his own aircraft and therefore recommended something the ' Tailor of Ulm ' executed a few decades later - he still unsuccessful. The flight apparatus, the Meerwein had built will have located more than 100 years in a memory in Emmen things. Without proof, it is reported, a grandson of aviation pioneer had " disposed of" him at the end of the 19th century in cleanup.

An interesting literary mention is Meerwein in " Robur the Conqueror" by Jules Verne, " in 1781 designed by the architect of the Prince of Baden, Meerwein, a bird flying machine and turned against the idea of being able to ever draw just invented aerostats " .. Verne joins him with it in the pioneers of flying with apparatus heavier than air, but not, interestingly, goes into the question whether Meerwein was actually flown.

After 1784 Meerwein again worked primarily as a prolific state architect. He has published texts in 1802 its structural findings about ' the properties and effects of the vault '. He also worked on water development issues such as the calculation of barrages or the straightening of rivers.

Meerwein died in 1810 at the consequences of a fall from his horse. To date, a summary of planned and / or built, still existing or vanished buildings of this early classicist architect is missing.


  • Carl Friedrich Meerwein ( 1782 ): The Art of Flying on the type of birds. Oberrheinische manifolds ( 2) H. 3 Thurneysen JJ Younger, Basel and Frankfurt.
  • Carl Friedrich Meerwein (1784 ): Man! should not be-ing born with abilities to fly? Answered by seen again and propagated with some notes. J. J. Thurneysen disciples. 46 S. With engravings. Basel.
  • Carl Friedrich Meerwein (1802 ): Beytrag the right judgment of the properties and effects of the vaults: as well as for adequate naming of the parts thereof; besides therefore derived statement, all kinds of vaults and particularly bridge vault ... 271 S. 15 Plate; 4 °. Guilhauman, Frankfurt

Pictures of Carl Friedrich Meerwein