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Archimedes Rotorcraft & V/STOL Museum


As far back as we know, man has hed the desire to fly like the birds. Initially it was with wings, as in Greek mythology when Icarus and Daedalus attempted to escape from Crete by means of wings that Daedalus constructed from feathers and wax.

Icarus and Daedalus

In 1489 Leonardo Da Vinci drew his man powered helicopter utilizing Archimedes' Helical Screw. This of course would not work, but the principle of using a rotor for lift was sound.

Da Vinci's Helicopter

Let's walk through history.


We have no idea who invented it, or exactly when - circa 250-200BC, but the "Chinese Top" is the first real example of a flying machine. This toy was a true helicopter! When spun betweeen the hands and released it would soar through the air. Many inventors through the centuries played with these and dreamed of devices that would lift man into the sky.

Chinese Top

1784 -- Launoy & Bienvenu Helicopter Toy.

It had two rotors consisting of feathers stuck in corks and was driven by a string from a bow. The rotors rotated in opposite directions solving the problem of torque.

Launoy & Bienvenu Helicopter Toy

In 1799, Sir George Cayley set forth the concept of the modern aeroplane - a fixed-wing flying machine with separate systems for lift, propulsion, and control. He was a pioneer of aeronautical engineering and is sometimes referred to as "the father of aviation. He discovered and identified the four forces which act on a heavier-than-air flying vehicle - weight, lift, drag and thrust. Modern aeroplane design is based on these discoveries and on the importance of cambered wings, also identified by Cayley. In respect to helicopters, in 1843 Cayley proposed his "Aerial Carriage" which could achieve vertical flight using twin, counter-rotating rotors and propellers for forward motion. Many have built models of this but we do not know if he actually did.

Cayley's Aerial Carriage

1863 French pioneer, Viscomte Gustave de Ponton d'Amecourt, who was responsible for the creation of the word "helicopter" based on the Greek words "helikos" (helix) and "pteron" (wing). D'Amecourt was instrumental in further rotating-wing research, heading a small band of enthusiasts who were passionately involved with the dream of the helicopter. D'Amecourt built a small steam-driven model of his design (still in the French Air Museum) in 1863 and took out French and British patents on it. It was too heavy to fly, but the counter-rotating blades solved the issue of torque.

D'Amecort steam powered helicopter