Memories of Otto Lilienthal
"The researcher with the crown of thorns"
Otto Lilienthal's first flights in 1891 are widely regarded as the birth of human aviation. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of this historic event in 1991, the German Museum of Technology in Berlin (Deutsches Technikmuseum) opened an exhibition under the title “Dream and trauma of German aviation”. Both of these perspectives on the history of aviation can be applied to Otto Lilienthal. In 1894 he wrote a letter to popular socio-ethical publicist Moritz von Egidy about his visions on the future of aviation. He foresaw two things: world-wide air traffic and everlasting peace in a world, where you could just simply fly across borders. While Lilienthal's visions about global aviation would eventually come true, his hopes about eternal peace brought on by aviation would turn into the exact opposite. In 1936 Hermann Göring, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, unified all German research institutions on aviation into the “Lilienthal society”.