Heavier than Air


Today we take a break from the usual discussions of politics and idiocy (but I repeat myself) to consider the fickleness of fortune for aspiring inventors.

Everyone has heard of the Wright Brothers, who in December 1903 flew their self-powered heavier-than-air flying machine for a distance of 279 meters, and thus became world-famous as the inventors of the airplane. Well done, guys!

Almost unknown are the two French sisters, Beatrice and Eveline Faux, and their attempts to become France’s (and the world’s) first aviators. Commonly known as “les SÅ“urs Faux” (the Wrong Sisters) in their home town of Sous le Pont d’Avignon, Beatrice and Eveline (and their father, l’Appareil Faux) worked night and day building and testing several flying machines in the last half of the 1890’s. But all for naught – although there were several short flights of a few meters among the scores of failures and crashes, they never really succeeded and their story is rarely told.

In fact, today the Wrong Sisters are most famous for the introduction the term “box office” into the French, and subsequently English, languages. Although ahead of their time in seeing the advantage of using English for technical purposes, Eveline considered the word “cockpit” to be inappropriate when the pilot was female. In an unfortunate case of faulty translation she named the small enclosure in which she sat and controlled the airplane the “box office”. The rest, as they say, is history.

One Response to “Heavier than Air”

  1. First posted Sept. 8, 2009.

    I can’t claim credit for having created this joke. All I did was put a French twist on it. Here’s a neat picture, by the way:

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