10 Uplifting Inventions for Personal Flight

Francis & Gertrude Rogallo -1948
© Bettmann/CORBIS

Even though Francis Rogallo was employed by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, they had no interest in his ideas for "flexible wing" vehicles. Bringing his idea home, Rogallo and his wife Gertrude worked together to build a prototype. They used table fans and cardboard to build wind tunnels. Then Gertrude sewed a flowered kitchen curtain together into a triangle-shaped kite. Initially the Rogallos licensed their design to a kite maker, but the design was eventually appropriated for hang gliding and paragliding. In fact, NASA eventually approached Rogallo about using the invention to land space capsules back to earth. They paid him $35,000 for the concept but eventually stuck with a simple parachute in the heat of the space race.