|Otto Lilienthal was the first successful aviator in the history of mankind and the first man to launch
himself into the air, fly and land safely. He was able to make sustained and replicable flights for the
first time in history. Otto Lilienthal was born in 1848 into an old Lutheran family in Anklam,
Pomerania, where famous German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann spent his childhood. Along
with Otto's architect brother, Gustav, who later became his assistant, he built flying machines in his
youth. He received a degree in mechanical engineering from Berlin University in 1870, then served in
the Franco- Prussian War of 1870-71.
He was a successful businessman and factory owner as well as an inventor, and in 1877 he took out
the first of his 25 patents on everything from on a machine used in mining to aviation concepts. He
married and had four children, but between his business and busy home life, he seriously studied the
principles of aerodynamics. He used birds, especially storks, as his models for flight research. He
made detailed studies of their flight patterns for over 20 years and repeatedly tested his observations
in experiments and by building models. In 1889, this resulted in his book 'Der Vogelflug als
Grundlage der Fliegekunst' (Bird Flight as the Basis of Aviation).
He built his first glider in 1891, the Derwitzer Glider, which was constructed of rods of peeled willow
covered by highly stretched strong cotton fabric and had a wingspan of 25 feet. He initially used a
springboard and then a shed to launch himself in his garden, gradually increasing the height from
which he began his launch. After a while he could glide almost 80 feet. To fly his more perfected
gliders, Lilienthal had to crawl under the craft, put his arms in a set of cuffs, hold onto a bar near the
front edge of the wings and run down a slope. As in all of his gliders, he controlled direction by
shifting his weight which demanded considerable physical strength.
He went on to develop far more sophisticated gliders and before his death in 1896, he had built
eighteen other models, fifteen monoplanes and three biplanes and he had also taken more than 2,000
glider flights. In 1894, he built an artificial hill from where he could run down and jump into the
wind, gliding more than 150 feet. Wanting more height, Lilienthal began launching flights from the
Rhinower Hills near Berlin where he could glide up to 1,150 feet.
Lilienthal was regularly joined by photographers so as to document the development of his flight
techniques, and photographs of Lilienthal in flight were famous worldwide. In 1893 and again in
1896, he built gliders with small engines and flapping wings. He piloted with great skill, and was
regularly visited by aerodynamic experts from all over the world. He began designing the gliders with
a prellbugel, or flexible willow rebound bow to reduce the impact in case of a crash, and on one
occasion this saved Lilienthal's life.
His fundamental research on birds and artificial wings laid the foundation for the science of wing
aerodynamics and he greatly influenced the Wright Brothers and others. On August 9, 1896, as he
was piloting one of his "Normal" gliders with no prellbugel to protect him, his glider went through a
heat eddy and stalled, then went 56 foot into a nosedive. He died the next day of a broken spine. His
last words were "Sacrifices must be made."
|Brilliant pioneer in field archaeology, German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, 1822-1890, was
born to a poor minister in Mecklenburg-Schwerin. He is best known for his excavations at ancient
Troy and Mycenae and his valuable discovery of "Priam's Gold." Schliemann, an unlikely
adventurer, was born to a pastor in Mecklenburg, Pomerania. He left formal school at age fourteen
and taught himself at least seven foreign languages in ancient and modern form.
Entirely self educated, he was spurred on by a childhood passion for legends told by Homer and
Vergil. He developed a remarkable aptitude for business, which enabled him to amass a large fortune
early in life and to retire at the age of 41 to devote himself fully to archaeology. He began to dig at
Troy, his most famous excavation taking place in 1870, and later he also made extraordinary
discoveries in Greece at Mycenae, the legendary home of Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks in the
Although greatly underrated today, Schliemann made remarkable achievements. Before Schliemann,
the pre-classical Greece (6000-1000 BC) civilization was not even known to have existed. He
established new standards for archaeological research, including the first application of the
'stratigraphical method' in archaeology. Schliemann and his seventeen year old Greek wife, Sophia
|Pomeranian Native Sons
|Heros von Borcke
|Johann August Heinrich Heros von Borcke (1835 – 1895) was known as the "giant in gray". He was
a big man, over six feet in height and well over two hundred pounds, with curly blond hair and
laughing eyes. Born to an aristocratic German family, his childhood was spent in Berlin and Halle
before receiving a superb Prussian military education. Von Borcke was commissioned an ensign in
1853 and admitted to the Cuiraisser Regiment of Guards as a cadet. In 1860, he was posted as
second lieutenant to the Second Brandenburg Regiment of Dragoons, but saw little action. After his
release from the Prussian Army, he embarked upon the adventure of his life: he sailed for Bermuda
intent on joining the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
Speaking almost no English, he had managed to secure letters of introduction to Confederate
authorities, and he slipped into South Carolina's Charleston Harbor on a blockade runner on May 24,
1862. He next traveled to Richmond where he met with Confederate Secretary of War George
Randolph who presented him with a letter of introduction to Major General J.E.B. Stuart.
A deep friendship developed between the two men immediately and von Borcke was made a captain
in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States and soon promoted to the rank of major. Von
Bourcke could be entertaining and told wonderful stories with his think accent, but he could also be a
bit vain and difficult to get along with at times, especially for his servants. His horses were as big as
his extra long sword, a beast of a blade forged in Solingen of Damascus steel. He rode with Stuart,
who affectionately called him "Von", during the Northern Virginia Campaign and the Maryland
Campaign, acquiring a reputation for bravery, and he served with Stuart the Battle of Middleburg on
June 19, 1863, where he suffered a severe wound. The examining doctor somberly declared the
wound, which pierced the lung, mortal, but von Borcke woke up the next morning determined to live
and he did, although he was incapacitated for the rest of the year. He resume his duties in the spring
of 1864, and was present at the Battle of Yellow Tavern in which J.E.B. Stuart was killed, and he sat
by Stuart's side at his deathbed. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in December of that year,
and was voted the official thanks of the Confederate Congress and sent on a diplomatic mission to
England by President Jefferson Davis.
When the Confederacy collapsed in 1865, von Borcke returned to his native Prussia and resumed his
military career. He fought in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War, receiving the coveted Order of the Red
Eagle for his gallantry, but his old wounds always plagued him, and he retired from the Prussian
Army as Captain in 1867, settling in Neumarkt, East Prussia. While in London, he had written
articles for the pro-Confederate 'Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine' and he published them in book
form as "Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence" in 1877.
He inherited a castle at Geisenbrugge in Pomerania, and he proudly flew the Confederate flag
alongside the Prussian flag from its battlements. He and his wife Magdalene Honig had three sons
and, when she died in 1883, he married her sister and they had a daughter named Karoline Virginia,
in honor of his adopted and beloved southern state back in America. In 1884, he sailed back to the
United States for a reunion with many former friends and comrades.
He presented his famous Damascus sword to the State of Virginia, where it was later placed in the
Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Von Borcke moved to Berlin and died there from blood
poisoning, probably due to the after-affects of the injury received at Middleburg, on May 10, 1895.
Von Borcke's estate "Stargordt" in Pommern was built between 1717 and 1720. Heinrich von Borcke
added additions in 1743. The stately manor house, above then and now, contained a highly valuable
collection of 18th century art. When the Russians invaded Germany in 1945, they thoroughly looted
the place before burning it down. Von Borcke's descendants were forced to flee in a hunting wagon,
leaving their ancestral lands and all of their possessions behind forever. His original gravestone was
smashed during the frenzied communist movement to erase all evidence of German culture and
history in stolen German lands. Once the Germans were expelled, the area decayed into poverty.