Sir Frank Whittle
Inheriting an inventiveness and love of things mechanical from his father, Frank Whittle began cultivating his love of flying and airplanes at the age of sixteen, when he became an apprentice with the Royal Air Force and began flying airplanes. In 1926, Whittle became a cadet at the RAF College, Cranwell. It was there that he began developing his ideas on jet propulsion, graduating in 1928 as the recipient of the Abdy-General Fellowes Memorial Prize for aeronautical sciences.
Recognizing the limitations of a propeller-driven aircraft at high altitudes, Whittle set about developing a propeller-less aircraft with a power plant engine driven by the ignition of a compressed mixture of oxygen and gasoline. This new engine performed better at higher altitudes and delivered a faster rate of travel. Whittle patented the idea in 1930 but unfortunately, the British Air Ministry did not immediately want to pursue support further development of Whittle's idea. Finally, six years later the Air Ministry financially funded Whittle, forming with him Powered Jets, Ltd., where he would develop his jet engine. The next few years provided numerous obstacles for Whittle, yet midway through 1938 he established the validity of the jet engine. Finally, on May 15, 1941, the Whittle jet engine, housed in the Gloster E.28/39, flew its maiden flight. Aviation would change forever with the advancement of the jet engine.
Born in 1907 in Coventry England, Frank Whittle married Dorothy Lee in 1930 and they had two children. Whittle died in Baltimore, Maryland in 1996.During his more than seventy years of work on jet propulsion, Whittle was the recipient of such honors as the Daniel Guggenheim Medal, the Churchill Gold Medal Society of the Arts, and the Extraordinary Service Award from the Federal Aviation Administration. He was knighted by King George VI in 1948 and has been inducted into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame.