Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838–1917) was a German general and the inventor of the rigid airship, or dirigible balloon. He joined the Prussian army in 1858 and travelled to Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA in 1863, where he made his first ascent by balloon. Perhaps inspired by this experience, he first came up with his ideas for an airship in 1874 and developed detailed plans for the aircraft from 1893.
Zeppelin's design for an airship had a rigid aluminium framework covered in fabric, forming the envelope. Inside were separate internal gas cells containing hydrogen. The airship was powered by several internal combustion engines mounted in gondolas, or engine cars, hung beneath the driving propellers.
The airship had been invented in 1852 by French engineer (1825–82) Henri Giffard. The first rigid airship was designed by Hungarian inventor David Schwarz (1852–97), who died before its maiden voyage in 1897. Zeppelin's was the first successful rigid airship.
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