The Fellowship Gold Medal of the Royal Aeronautical Society, awarded to Mr F.W.Lanchester of the famous Lanchester Car and Aviation Company, gold medal, 45mm diam., with bird in flight and hot air balloon, the reverse with Presented by the Royal Aeronautical Society in relief, the rim engraved (Awarded to F.W.Lanchester, February 1926. In fitted case of issue.
Lot 124
The Fellowship Gold Medal of the Royal Aeronautical Society, awarded to Mr F.W.Lanchester of the famous Lanchester Car and Aviation Company,
gold medal, 45mm diam., with bird in flight and hot air balloon, the reverse with Presented by the Royal Aeronautical Society in relief, the rim engraved (Awarded to F.W.Lanchester, February 1926. In fitted case of issue.
Sold for £ 3,000 (US$ 3,909) inc. premium

Lot Details
The Fellowship Gold Medal of the Royal Aeronautical Society, awarded to Mr F.W.Lanchester of the famous Lanchester Car and Aviation Company,
gold medal, 45mm diam., with bird in flight and hot air balloon, the reverse with Presented by the Royal Aeronautical Society in relief, the rim engraved (Awarded to F.W.Lanchester, February 1926. In fitted case of issue. Extremely fine. (1)

Footnotes

  • Frederick William Lanchester was born at Lewisham, London to Henry Jones Lanchester, an architect, and his wife Octavia, a tutor. He was the fourth of eight children, his older brother Henry Vaughan Lanchester also becoming an architect. When he was a year old, his father relocated the family to Brighton, and young Frederick attended a preparatory school and a nearby boarding school, where he did not distinguish himself. He himself, thinking back, remarked that, "it seemed that Nature was conserving his energy". However, he did succeed in winning a scholarship to the Hartley Institution, in Southampton, and after three years won another scholarship, to Kensington College, which is now part of Imperial College. He supplemented his instruction in applied engineering by attending evening classes at Finsbury Technical School. Unfortunately, he ended his education without having obtained a formal qualification.

    When he completed his education in 1888, he acquired a job as a Patent Office draughtsman for £3 a week. About this time he registered a patent for an isometrograph, a draughtsman's instrument for hatching, shading and other geometrical design work. In 1919, at the age of fifty-one, Lanchester married Dorothea Cooper, the daughter of Thomas Cooper, the vicar of St Peter's Church at Field Broughton in Lancashire. The couple relocated to 41 Bedford Square, London, but in 1924 Lanchester built a house to his own design (Dyott End) in Oxford Road, Moseley. The couple remained there for the rest of their life together but did not have any children.

    Lanchester began to study aeronautics seriously in 1892, eleven years before the first successful powered flight. Whilst crossing the Atlantic on a voyage to the United States, Lanchester studied the flight of herring gulls, seeing how they were able to use motionless wings to catch up-currents of air. He measured various birds to see how the centre of gravity compared with the centre of support. As a result of his deliberations, Lanchester, eventually formulated his circulation theory of flight. This is the basis of aerodynamics and the foundation of modern aerofoil theory. In 1894 he tested his theory on a number of models. In 1897 he presented a paper entitled "The soaring of birds and the possibilities of mechanical flight" to the Physical Society, but it was rejected, being too advanced for its time. Lanchester realised that powered flight required an engine with a much greater power-to-weight ratio than any existing engine. He proposed to design and build such an engine, but was advised that no one would take him seriously.

    Lanchester was discouraged by the attitude to his aeronautical theory, and concentrated on automobile development for the next ten years. In 1907 he published a two-volume work, Aerial Flight, dealing with the problems of powered flight. In it, he developed a model for the vortices that occur behind wings during flight, which included the first full description of lift and drag. His book was not well received in England, but created interest in Germany where the scientist, Ludwig Prandtl mathematically confirmed the correctness of Lanchester's vortex theory. In his second volume, he turned his attention to aircraft stability, aerodonetics, developing Lanchester's phugoid theory which contained a description of oscillations and stalls. During this work he outlined the basic layout almost all aircraft have used since then. Lanchester's contribution to aeronautical science was not recognised until the end of his life.

    In 1909 Herbert Henry Asquith's Royal Advisory Committee on Aeronautics was established, and Lanchester was appointed a member. Lanchester guessed correctly that aircraft would play an increasingly important part in warfare, unlike the military command, which envisioned warfare as continuing much the same way it had in the past. The same year, 1909, Lanchester patented a contra-rotating propeller.

    During World War I Lanchester was particularly interested in predicting the outcome of aerial battles. In 1916 he published his ideas on aerial warfare in a book entitled "Aircraft in Warfare: the Dawn of the Fourth Arm", which included a description of a series of differential equations that are known now as Lanchester's Power Laws. These laws described how two forces would attrit each other in combat, and demonstrated that the ability of modern weapons to operate at long ranges dramatically changed the nature of combat—a force that was twice as large had been twice as powerful in the past, but now it was four times, the square of the quotient.

    Lanchester's Laws were originally applied practically in the United States to study logistics, where they developed into operations research (OR) (operational research in UK usage). OR techniques are now widely used, perhaps most so for business.

    He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1922, and in 1926 the Royal Aeronautical Society awarded him a fellowship and a gold medal.

    In 1925 Lanchester founded a company named Lanchester Laboratories Ltd., to perform industrial research and development work. Although he developed an improved radio and gramophone speaker, he was unable to market it successfully because of the Great Depression. He continued, overworking, until in 1934 his health failed and the company was forced to close. He was diagnosed eventually with Parkinson's disease and was reportedly much grieved that this, along with cataracts in both eyes, prevented him from "doing any official job" during the Second World War. He was awarded gold medals by the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1941 and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1945.

    Lanchester, who had never been successful commercially, lived the remainder of his life in straitened circumstances, and it was only through charitable help that he was able to remain in his home. He died at his home, Dyott End, on 8 March 1946.
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