About the Inventor

Authors: 
Ben Ruhe
Article type: 
Journal

William Abner Eddy grew up in Illinois where his father, a clergyman, encouraged him to investigate the sciences and keep notes, an essential habit for documenting one’s work. As a young man Eddy lived in New York. After marrying Cynthia S. Huggins (1856-1922) in 1887, Eddy and his wife moved to Bayonne, New Jersey, a quiet town at the time. Eddy had relatives living in Bayonne, one of them being his greatuncle, Gen. Abner Doubleday, who, in 1861, as an artillery captain, returned fire for the Union after Confederate troops began the Civil War by bombarding Fort Sumter. At the time, William was 11 years old and Abraham Lincoln was President. Doubleday has often, although erroneously, been credited with originating the game of baseball. Although Doubleday did organize ball games for his troops, he took no credit for creating the game. Still, word of mouth history is stubborn and the general’s reputation for creating America’s national pastime persists to this day. I doubt William Eddy could have predicted that his kite would not only contribute to the national morale, it would become a classic and that people a century later would still be interested in him and his work.

Kite experimentation for flight, military man-lifting reconnaissance, aerial photography, and weather experiments was prevalent in many countries during the 1890s. Eddy felt he was part of the future. He was a self-taught scientist, a man who found out things for himself, which is the nature of a true scholar. As a reporter, Eddy, who came into contact with aviation visionaries of the era, felt the dawn of manned flight in his soul. Intelligent and a keen observer, he could quote Emerson when necessary. Experts become experts by their own effort. Eddy knew that one doesn’t need someone’s approval to excel, only his or her passion to discover. Expertise is fair game for all to pursue, which Eddy knew.

Eddy had an interest in meteorology, aviation, and a lifelong fascination with kites. He, as did others, felt that measuring wind speeds at higher altitudes would be helpful in predicting the weather. In the years prior to 1890, Eddy had heard of a unique tailless Javanese bowed kite, called the Malay in the West, which was flown on the Island of Java. Since kites with tails, especially in trains, caused all sorts of instability and entanglement problems when lifting weather-measuring devices, he was especially keen on the nature of the Malay, but had no example to work from. Still, Eddy continued his experiments with diamond-shaped bowed kites that would one day fly ex-tremely well without tails.