How Did Spores Inspire New Enthusiasm For Lighter Than Air Aviation?

The massive and elegant airships that floated through the skies of the early 20th century evoke a sense of romanticism and wonder for many people today, but they were used for more that defense and luxurious air travel.

An example of this is the R-100, a 720-long airship that amounted to more than five million cubic feet in volume when inflated, and was constructed with 58,200 ft. of tubing and five million rivets. While the R100 could carry 100 passengers in luxury accommodations, it gained recognition for its unique role in spore collection for a study on crop fungi—being the only type of airborne vessel that could carry proper scientific equipment at the time.


A curious British airship experiment | BBC News Magazine

Dillon Weston persuaded those in charge of Sqn Ldr Booth’s mission to assist his experiment. As a former member of the Cambridge University Air Squadron, he had previously badgered friends to fly around Cambridgeshire in planes to test his Vaseline-coated collection dishes. His involvement in the R100 voyage was timely for the government, as it gave it an added note of practicality. “Devastating yet invisible plant diseases were an important enemy to conquer and new aviation technologies were vital in winning the war against them,” says [Cambridge University researcher, Ruth] Horry. “Newspaper coverage of the time showed that the scientist who chased invisible diseases captured both tiny spores and the imagination of the public. ‘Disease germs two miles up – flying scientists chase them,’ declared one newspaper.”

Did you know that a scientific experiment actually played a role in the airship-building race of the 1930s and contributed to this type of aviation’s’ renewed popularity?

2 thoughts on “How Did Spores Inspire New Enthusiasm For Lighter Than Air Aviation?

  1. Today, blimps are best known as advertising vehicles. I know that Goodyear began using blimps to advertise their brand in 1925 but blimps have also played an important role in the armed forces of many countries, such as what this story is mentioning, namely, the U.S. Navy’s lighter-than-air program, which made extensive use of blimps, primarily in anti-submarine and reconnaissance roles, from the 1920s through the 1950s.

  2. This image reminds me of some iconic news reel footage I came across recently. There is Dramatic newsreel footage, flagged by the Public Domain Review, which offers a close look at the disaster of the Hindenberg. The video also features startling arial footage of the swastika-adorned zeppelin flying high above the Manhattan, New York skyline just a few years before Germany and the U.S. went to war.

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