How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization
Wrong! It was not Orville or Wilbur Wright. It was a Jesuit priest and mathematician named Francesco Lana de Terzi (1631-1687) who first described the physics and geometry of a flying machine. In 1670 he published a book in which he described a flying ship that was lighter than air. Although the machine was never built, his work laid the groundwork for a systematic theory of aeronautics backed by mathematics.
Like the Wright brothers, Father Terzi feared that the invention of a flying machine would be used as a devastating weapon of war. He wrote that “God will never allow that such a weapon be built…because everyone realizes that no city would be safe from raids…from weights, fireballs and bombs hurled from a great height.”
This priest could never have imagined the truth of his warnings.
To honor Father Terzi’s contributions to aeronautics, a model of his invention is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.