Lawrence Hargrave was an astronomer, a pioneer in flying, an inventor, and an explorer from Australia. He was born and raised in England before moving to Australia when he was 15 years old. He began his career as an explorer at a young age, sailing to New Guinea in the 1870s. Later, he worked at the Sydney Observatory as an assistant astronomical observer. In the mid-1880s, he gave up his job to focus on exploring the problems of human flight after inheriting his late father’s fortune. He examined and analyzed the flying of birds and insects for this purpose. In the late 1800s, he created various plane types, applying the principles of his inventions such as the rotary engine and box kite to them. These breakthroughs laid the groundwork for early flying. He was an incredibly optimistic innovator who worked tirelessly to achieve his objectives. He was also a humble and charitable man, since he did not bother to patent any of his ideas. His sole goal was to aid in the growth of human understanding. He was not given the respect he deserved during his lifetime, as most pioneers are, but his contribution to aviation history made him a hero.
Childhood and Adolescence
Lawrence Hargrave was born in Greenwich, England, on January 29, 1850. He was born to Ann, née Hargrave, and John Fletcher Hargrave, subsequently Attorney-General of NSW. In 1856, his father left his wife and three younger children in New South Wales to visit his brother Richard. He brought his eldest son Ralph and a sibling named Edward with him.
His mother afterwards moved to Kent with the children. Hargrave attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmorland, for his early schooling. His father summoned him after a few years. The family then sailed to Sydney, Australia, on the ‘La Hogue’ on November 5, 1865. With his father’s permission, he set off towards the Gulf of Carpentaria and circumnavigated Australia in the ‘Ellesmere.’
Meanwhile, he failed his matriculation exams and began an engineering apprenticeship with the Australasian Steam Navigation Company in Sydney in 1867, after failing his matriculation examination. He spent five years there, gaining abilities that he subsequently discovered to be important in the development of his models.
Career of Lawrence Hargrave
As an engineer, he embarked on a trip to New Guinea on the ‘Maria,’ but the ship was destroyed when it hit Bramble reef. In 1875, he joined William John Macleay’s voyage to the Gulf of Papua as an engineer. Under the command of Octavius Stone, Lawrence Hargrave investigated the area around Port Moresby from October 1875 to January 1876. He embarked on another expedition four months later, this time on the ‘SS Ellengowan,’ captained by Luigi D’Albertis.
He worked for Parbury Lamb and Co. in the pearling industry in 1877. He joined the Royal Society of New South Wales when he returned to Sydney. He began working as an assistant astronomical observer at Sydney Observatory in 1878. He worked in this position for the following five years, retiring in 1883 with a good deal of practical experience.
He had always been fascinated by experiments, particularly those involving aviation, since he was a youngster. In 1885, he retired his paid job to devote himself full-time to study into the challenges of human flight after inheriting his late father’s fortune. He spent time studying bird flight and doing flying machine experiments at Stanwell Park.
He conducted several experiments and created a number of machines during his career.
He never sought for a patent, though, since he really believed in sharing scientific breakthroughs. His findings, which were reported in a series of papers to the Royal Society of New South Wales, show that his experiments with flying-machine motors and cellular kites were a success.
He created a rotary engine in 1889, but it did not receive the attention it deserved. Despite the engine’s effectiveness, the weight and quality of materials available at the time made building an autonomous flying vehicle problematic. The Seguin brothers improved the engine again in 1908, and its idea was widely employed in early flight.
With the help of his box kites, he successfully lifted himself off the ground at Stanwell Park Beach on November 12, 1894. With a wind speed of 21 mph, he ascended 16 feet. He also had an anemometer and a clinometer with him to monitor wind speed and kite line angle. The box kite experiment proved it as a stable aerial platform, which aided those working towards powered flight. The box-kite eventually became widely utilized for meteorological measurements.
The box kite idea was quickly adapted to gliders. Alberto Santos-Dumont used it in his airplanes to accomplish his first flight in October 1906. Until 1909, the box-kite was the most prevalent type of airplane in Europe. He also experimented with a hydroplane, a ‘one-wheeled automobile’ using the gyroscopic concept, and ‘wave powered watercraft.’ Although his work inspired others like Alexander Graham Bell, he was underappreciated during his lifetime, and his plane models were donated to the state of New South Wales.
Major Projects of Lawrence Hargrave
Hargrave collaborated with H. C. Russell at the Sydney Observatory. During this time, he observed Mercury’s transit, researched the Krakatoa eruption, assisted Russell in calculating double stars, and invented devices to aid their calculations.
Hargrave was credited with several inventions. The three most important are: first, the research of curved aerofoils; second, the box kite (1893), which improved the lift-to-drag ratio of early gliders; and third, the rotary engine, which powered early twentieth-century aircraft.
Achievements & Awards
Lawrence Hargrave was referred to as the “creator of human flight” by Professor Richard Threlfall in his presidential speech to the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1895. The Lower Coast Road in New South Wales, Australia, was renamed in his honor in 1947. Following that, the renowned tourist route connecting Wollongong and Sydney became known as the Lawrence Hargrave Drive. The back side of the Australian $20 banknote featured an image of Hargrave and his gliders from 1966 to 1994. Qantas, Australia’s largest airline, has named its fifth Airbus A380 after him.
Personal History and Legacy
On September 7, 1878, Lawrence Hargrave married Margaret Preston, the daughter of David Johnston, a Sydney shipping clerk. The couple had six children together, one of them passed away when he was still a youngster. At May 1915, during World War I, he lost his only son Geoffrey in the Battle of Gallipoli. He died on July 6, 1915, after suffering from peritonitis following surgery for appendicitis. Waverley Cemetery was where he was laid to rest.
For his wife and four daughters, he left an inheritance worth over £20,000. Mrs Hargrave eventually made her home in England.
Estimated Net Worth
Lawrence is one of the wealthiest engineers and one of the most well-known. Lawrence Hargrave’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.