Albrecht Berblinger

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Contemporary drawing of the flight attempt
Albrecht Berblinger
Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger

(1770-06-24)24 June 1770
Died28 January 1829(1829-01-28) (aged 58)
Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger (24 June 1770 – 28 January 1829), also known as the Tailor of Ulm, is famous for having constructed a working heavier-than-air flying machine, presumably a hang glider.[1]

Early life[edit]

Berblinger was the seventh child of a poor family. When he was 13, his father died, and he was sent to an orphanage. There he was forced to become a tailor, although he wanted to become a watchmaker. He became a master craftsman at 21, but he still was interested in mechanics. In his spare time in 1808, he invented an artificial limb with a moveable joint for a soldier who had lost a leg.[2]

Flight attempts[edit]

One of Berblinger's inventions was considered to be an early hang glider. He worked on it for years, improving it by watching the flight of owls. He was derided by many, and he was threatened with exclusion from the guild. He was ordered to pay a large fine for working outside of the guild, and the project cost him a considerable sum of money.[2] King Frederick I of Württemberg became interested in his work and sponsored him with 20 Louis.

He tried to demonstrate the glider on the evening of 30 May 1811 in the presence of the king, his three sons, and the crown prince of Bavaria. The king and a large number of citizens waited for the flight, but Berblinger canceled it, claiming that a wing was damaged. The next day he made a second attempt from a higher location – the Adlerbastei (Eagles Bastion).[3] The King had left by this time, but his brother Duke Heinrich and the princes stayed to watch. Berblinger waited so long for a good wind that a policeman finally gave him a push, and Berblinger fell into the Donau (Danube). Other accounts of this incident omit the policeman and contend that the cold Donau (Danube) and the temperature differential over it prevented the glider from lifting. He survived and was rescued by fishermen, but his reputation was ruined as a result, and his work suffered. He was 58 years old when he died in a hospital.[2]

The story of the tailor who tried to fly subsequently resulted in some fleer and allusions in publications of the 19th century. Wilhelm Busch drew a man falling into a stream in his picture story "Max and Moritz", a reference to Berblinger's failed flight.

It was not until the end of the century that Otto Lilienthal proved the feasibility of heavier-than-air flight.


  • A reconstruction of Berblinger's flying device (in the form of a pair of wings) can be seen in the Ulm Rathaus (City Hall) suspended above the stairwell near the Standesamt (Registrary) where civil weddings are held. There is also another reconstruction of the glider at the ground level of building B in the Fachhochschule (University of Applied Science) Ulm.
  • In 1986 it was proven that Berblinger's glider was capable of sustained flight, but it was almost impossible to cross the Danube, even with most modern gliders.
  • Bertolt Brecht wrote a ballad about Berblinger in 1934.
  • A commemorative medal was issued in 1928 depicting the event.[4]
  • The German Academy of Aviation Medicine (now the European School of Aviation Medicine) named an annual award for young scientists in his honor. [1][5]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Harsch, Viktor; Kriebel, Juergen (2006). "Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger--inventor of the spring prosthesis and hang-glider (1811)". Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. 77 (10): 1087–1090. ISSN 0095-6562. PMID 17042258.
  2. ^ a b c Stefanidis, Anja (2011). "Albrecht Ludwig Berblingers Sturzflug in die Donau vor 200 Jahren". Württembergische Landesbibliothek Rundbrief. 2011.
  3. ^ This structure no longer exists but a plaque commemorates it on the banks of the river in Neue Strasse, just past the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Holy Trinity Church)
  4. ^ "Leipziger Münzhandlung und Auktion Heidrun Höhn e. K., coins medals and banknotes auctions (Powerd by AUEX)".
  5. ^ "Scientific Award". European School of Aviation Medicine. Retrieved 2023-06-06.