Wenham, Francis Herbert

Wenham, Francis Herbert
b. 1824 London, England
d. 11 August 1908 Folkestone, England
English engineer, inventor and pioneer aerodynamicist who built the first wind tunnel.
Wenham trained as a marine engineer and later specialized in screw propellers and high-pressure engines. He had many interests. He took his steamboat to the Nile and assisted the photographer F.Frith to photograph Egyptian tombs by devising a series of mirrors to deflect sunlight into the dark recesses. He experimented with gas engines and produced a hot-air engine. Wenham was a leading, if controversial, figure in the Microscopical Society and a member of the Royal Photographic Society; he developed an enlarger.
Wenham was interested in both mechanical and lighter-than-air flight. One of his friends was James Glaisher, a well-known balloonist who made many ascents to gather scientific information. When the (Royal) Aeronautical Society of Great Britain was founded in 1866, the Rules were drawn up by Wenham, Glaisher and the Honorary Secretary, F.W.Brearey. At the first meeting of the Society, on 27 June 1866, "On aerial locomotion and the laws by which heavy bodies impelled through the air are sustained" was read by Wenham. In his paper Wenham described his experiments with a whirling arm (used earlier by Cayley) to measure lift and drag on flat surfaces inclined at various angles of incidence. His studies of birds' wings and, in particular, their wing loading, showed that they derived most of their lift from the front portion, hence a long, thin wing was better than a short, wide one. He published illustrations of his glider designs covering his experiments of c. 1858–9. One of these had five slender wings one above the other, an idea later developed by Horatio Phillips. Wenham had some success with a model, but no real success with his full-size gliders.
In 1871, Wenham and John Browning constructed the first wind tunnel designed for aeronautical research. It utilized a fan driven by a steam engine to propel the air and had a working section of 18 in. (116 cm). Wenham continued to play an important role in aeronautical matters for many years, including a lengthy exchange of ideas with Octave Chanute from 1892 onwards.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Honorary Member of the (Royal) Aeronautical Society.
Wenham published many reports and papers. These are listed, together with a reprint of his paper "Aerial locomotion", in the Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society (August 1958).
Further Reading
Two papers by J.Laurence Pritchard, 1957, "The dawn of aerodynamics" Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society (March); 1958, "Francis Herbert Wenham", Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society (August) (both papers describe Wenham and his work).
J.E.Hodgson, 1924, History of Aeronautics in Great Britain, London.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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