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Wings of Madness

Wings of Madness

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Item Number:
56 min.
Closed Caption:
WGBH Boston Video
Grade Level:
7 - 12
A century ago, Europe's most acclaimed celebrity was a fashionable, frail, Brazilian-born aviator named Alberto Santos-Dumont. The first to fly an airplane in Europe, he also pioneered the first practical dirigibles, or powered balloons, and his daring exploits captivated the public.

A fearless test pilot and innovator, Santos-Dumont pursued a unique vision of the flying machine as a personal vehicle—he delighted in steering his airship down the Paris boulevards and dropping in at cafes and garden parties. But his burst of glory was short-lived. When the Wright Brothers finally unveiled their airplane – in France – they instantly eclipsed Santos-Dumont's fame. Eventually, Santos-Dumont slipped into illness and despair, tormented by the knowledge that the airplane, which he believed to be his invention, had become a lethal weapon of war.

Based on the acclaimed biography by Paul Hoffman, Wings of Madness tells the colorful and tragic life of this neglected pioneer and brilliant technical improviser, who cut a dashing figure in turn-of-the-century Paris.

Special DVD features include: materials and activities for educators; a link to the NOVA Web site; scene selections; closed captions; and described video for the visually impaired.

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