Wings of madness : Alberto Santos-Dumont and the invention of flight /
Paul Hoffman.
1st ed.
New York : Hyperion, 2003.
ix, 369 p.
More Details
New York : Hyperion, 2003.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Paul Hoffman has been a special correspondent for Good Morning America and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He was president of Encyclopaedia Britannica and editor-in-chief of Discover. He is the winner of the first National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, and his work has appeared in the New Yorker, Time, and Atlantic Monthly. Hoffman was the host of the five-part PBS series Great Minds of Science. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He lives in Woodstock, NY
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, USA, 2003 : Nominated
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2003-05-05:
This thoroughly entertaining history of one of the currently overlooked heroes from early-20th-century aviation equals that of Hoffman's earlier volume, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers. Almost unknown today except in his native Brazil (where he is a revered figure), Alberto Santos-Dumont was known throughout the world as "a maverick among contemporary aeronauts." Obsessed with the idea of flight from an early age, Santos-Dumont (1873-1932) was an eccentric genius whose inherited wealth allowed him to live in luxury in fin-de-siecle Paris, at first working on ballooning. After designing small, cigar-shaped, engine-powered vehicles, which he used for everything from traveling around Paris to circling the Eiffel Tower, he soon became one of the best-known men in the city. Later he built "the world's first sports plane." Hoffman expertly recaptures from the historical dustbin the many facets of this unique character who befriended the Rothschilds and Cartiers, ran in the same crowd as Marcel Proust and devoted his life to a singular passion unmatched even by the obsessive Wright Brothers during the early days of aviation, "a time when the vast majority of Europeans and Americans had not yet traveled along the ground in an automobile." (June) Forecast: This year is the 100th anniversary of flight, and this solid narrative should stand out among the many books being published on the Wright Brothers. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2003-05-15:
In what is indeed an "unorthodox history," independent scholar Singer reminds us that through the ages humankind's dream of flight has been fed by numerous motivating obsessions-spirituality, freedom, greed, altruism, play, romance, escapism, accomplishment, dominion, and science and technology-that ultimately coalesced and enabled humans to fly. She covers such topics as mythology, the design of flying machines like balloons, gliders, and kites, and the advent of the Wright brothers but eventually concludes, "It is only later that we look back and see an `invisible hand' fashioning all the elements into the eventual achievement of human flight." Despite the inclusion of a time line, Singer's nonlinear approach is challenging. (Richard Hallion's superb Taking Flight offers a more straightforward approach to the same subject matter.) Doubtless Singer would have had a field day divining the motivations of Santos-Dumont (1873-1932), the subject of this enthralling biography by Hoffman (a former president of Encyclopaedia Britannica). In comparing Santos-Dumont's life to his greatest contemporary rivals, the Wright brothers, the author pinpoints through juxtaposition the salient aspects of the Brazilian's career, buried within a rich historical context: Santos, who sought both notoriety and public approbation, was accepted by the fin-de-siecle aeronautical world because of his wealth and social standing; he had his airships built for him and used his dirigibles as personal runabouts in Paris; he did not believe in patents; and he was credited with flying the first powered aircraft in Europe. Like the Wright brothers, Santos was self-educated, showed little interest in women, and suffered terribly from inaccurate press reporting. Hoffman's fast-paced writing style carries the reader along on a wonderful journey from Santos's childhood on a Brazilian coffee plantation to his suicide at the beach resort of Guaraj . Throughout, he maintains a subtle balance between Santos's extraordinary lifestyle and his real achievements. Singer's Like Sex With Gods is recommended for aviation collections and large libraries; Hoffman's Wings of Madness is highly recommended for all libraries.-John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Library Journal, May 2003
Publishers Weekly, May 2003
Booklist, June 2003
New York Times Book Review, August 2004
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Main Description
From the author of the acclaimed "The Man Who Loved Only Numbers" comes a book that is at once the biography of an eccentric Brazilian aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont, and the story of the thrilling early days of flight. 16-page photo insert.
Main Description
n the eve of the centennial of the Wright brothers' historic flights at Kitty Hawk, a new generation will learn about the other man who was once hailed worldwide as the conqueror of the air-Alberto Santos-Dumont. Because the Wright brothers worked in secrecy, word of their first flights had not reached Europe when Santos-Dumont took to the skies in 1906. The dashing, impeccably dressed inventor entertained Paris with his airborne antics-barhopping in a little dirigible that he tied to lampposts, circling above crowds around the Eiffel Tower, and crashing into rooftops. A man celebrated, even pursued by the press in Paris, London, and New York, Santos-Dumont dined regularly with the Cartiers, the Rothschilds, and the Roosevelts. But beneath his lively public exterior, Santos-Dumont was a frenzied genius tortured by the weight of his own creation. Wings of Madness chronicles the science and history of early aviation and offers a fascinating glimpse into the mind of an extraordinary and tormented man, vividly depicting the sights and sounds of turn-of-the-century Paris. It is a book that will do for aviation what The Man Who Loved Only Numbers did for mathematics.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Dinner on the Ceiling Champs-Elysees, 1903p. 1
Arrival Minas Gerais, 1873p. 9
"A Most Dangerous Place for a Boy" Paris, 1891p. 26
First Flight Vaugirard, 1897p. 40
Dying for Science Paris, 1899p. 69
The Turkey Buzzard's Secretp. 90
An Afternoon in the Rothschilds' Chestnut Tree Paris, 1901p. 102
"It Is the Poor Who Will Suffer!" The Eiffel Tower, 1901p. 127
"Making Armies a Jest"p. 150
An Unwelcome Dip in the Mediterranean Bay of Monaco, 1902p. 161
"Airship Is Useless, Says Lord Kelvin" London and New York, 1902p. 178
The World's First Aerial Car Paris, 1903p. 207
A Scurrilous Stabbing and a Russian Bribe St. Louis, 1904p. 234
"Aeroplane Raised by Small Motor, M. Santos-Dumont Performs a Feat Never Before Attained in Europe" Paris, 1906p. 251
"A War of Engineers and Chemists"p. 278
"Cavalry of the Clouds"p. 292
Departure Guaruja, 1932p. 301
Postmortem: In Search of a Heart Campo dos Afonsos, 2000p. 312
Origins and Acknowledgmentsp. 317
Notesp. 323
What Santos-Dumont Wrotep. 349
What Santos-Dumont Readp. 351
What Santos-Dumont Madep. 353
Indexp. 359
Table of Contents provided by Rittenhouse. All Rights Reserved.

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