The Flying Monk

ONE Of the Fathers Of Flight


“Arts and Sciences of the Ancient World: the Flight of Daedalus and Icarus” by danxoneil is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By: Isaiah Efrem, Reporter

Although many people think that humans were only able to fly until recently that is actually not the case. In fact now we know that humans flew over 1000 years ago. William of Malmesbury, a twelfth-century historian tells a story about the Angelo- Saxon monk Eilmer of Wiltshire Abbey that took place just after the year 1000. It goes something like this… Eilmer was a very brave man and while he was still young he fastened wings to his hands and feet so that he would be able to fly like Daedalus. He jumped off the summit of a tower and caught the breeze and flew for a while but was thrown out of balance from the aggressiveness of the wind and the shakiness of the air. He fell and broke his legs and was paralyzed ever since although Eilmer himself said the only reason he failed was because he forgot to add a tail on the back part. This basically means that some (almost) unknown monk was able to achieve a moderate flight distance of TWO FOOTBALL FIELDS over a thousand years ago and he only crashed that early because he forgot to add a tail! An American historian named Lynn White decides to dig deeper and found two sketchy accounts that assume a successful glider flight also took place in the year 875 by Ibn Firnas who was a Moorish inventor. The important thing to remember about Eilmer and Ibn Firnas is that both of their inventions were made in environments that welcomed invention. Ibn Firnas lived during the Golden Age of Islamic art and science and Eilmer was part of the Benedictine order which saw God as a master craftsman.