Patents, publicity and priority: The Aeronautical Society of Great Britain, 1897-1919

Jon P Hopwood-Lewis, Christine MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


During the first decade of the twentieth century, the long cherished ambition of powered flight was finally achieved. For the amateurs who had been exchanging information freely in pursuit of this common goal there appeared the new prospect of a commercial aviation industry, which posed more acutely the dilemma of whether to continue such open exchanges or to seek private profits through trade secrecy and patent protection. The Aeronautical Society of Great Britain espoused an ethos of open communication yet its Journal (established in 1897) encouraged its readers to obtain patent protection. Our paper explores this dilemma and analyses, in particular, the strategic use of publication and patents by the leading aero- and motor-engineer, F. W. Lanchester (1868-1946). With 426 patent applications to his name, not only was Lanchester a prolific patentee; he was also a regular contributor to engineering journals and the author of important works on the theory of aerodynamics and the military deployment of aircraft. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-221
Number of pages10
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Aeronautical theory
  • F. W. Lanchester
  • Patent management
  • Priority
  • Royal Aeronautical Society
  • Secrecy


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