(July 20, 1873 â€“ July 23, 1932)
was a Brazilian aviation pioneer. The heir of a wealthy family of coffee producers, Santos Dumont dedicated himself to aeronautical study and experimentation in Paris, France, where he spent most of his adult life.
Santos-Dumont designed, built, and flew the first practical dirigible, demonstrating that routine, controlled flight was possible. This "conquest of the air", in particular his winning the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize on October 19, 1901 on a flight that rounded the Eiffel Tower, made him one of the most famous people in the world during the early 20th century.
In addition to his pioneering work in airships, on 23 October 1906 Santos-Dumont, flew the 14-bis or Oiseau de proie (French for "bird of prey"), the first flight of an airplane to be witnessed by the European press and certified by the AÃ©ro Club de France and the FÃ©dÃ©ration AÃ©ronautique Internationale (FAI). And possibly the first public demonstration of a vehicle taking off on their own, without the need of a ramp.
In his homeland, Brazil, Santos-Dumont is considered a national hero and the father of aviation, having his name written in Brazilian Hero PanthÃ©on.
He occupied the 38th chair of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, from 1931 until his death in 1932.
Santos-Dumont was born in Cabangu Farm, a farm in the Brazilian town of Palmira, today named Santos Dumont in the state of Minas Gerais, in the Southeast Brazil. He grew up as the sixth of eight children on a coffee plantation owned by his family in the state of SÃ£o Paulo. His French-born father was an engineer, and made extensive use of the latest labor-saving inventions on his vast property. So successful were these innovations that Santos-Dumont's father gathered a large fortune and became known as the "Coffee King of Brazil."
He was fascinated by machinery, and while still a young child he learned to drive the steam tractors and locomotive used on his family's plantation. He was also a fan of Jules Verne and had read all his books before his tenth birthday. He wrote in his autobiography that the dream of flying came to him while contemplating the magnificent skies of Brazil in the long, sunny afternoons at the plantation.
According to the custom of wealthy families of the time, after receiving basic instruction at home with private instructors including his parents, young Alberto was sent out alone to larger cities to do his secondary studies. He studied for a while in "ColÃ©gio Culto Ã CiÃªncia", in Campinas.
In 1891, Alberto's father had an accident while inspecting some machinery. He fell from his horse and became a paraplegic. He decided to sell the plantation and move to Europe with his wife and younger children. At 17, Santos-Dumont left the prestigious Escola de Minas in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, for Paris. Shortly after he arrived, he bought an automobile. Later, he pursued studies in physics, chemistry, mechanics, and electricity with the help of a private tutor.