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Frank Whittle
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Inventor
    (June 1, 1907-August 9, 1996)
    Born in Earlsdon, Coventry, England, United Kingdom
    RAF (Royal Air Force) engineering officer
    Invented the jet engine
    Design patented in 1930
    First working prototype in 1937
    Founded the firm Power Jets Ltd. (1936)
    Named a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1948)
    He almost got court martialed following complaints about his reckless flying.
    After cracking up two aircraft, his Flight Lieutenant said, 'Why don't you take all my bloody aeroplanes, make a heap of them in the middle of the aerodrome and set fire to them – it's quicker!'
    The Air Ministry considered his jet engine design impractical and refused to pursue it, so Britain was beaten by Germany in building the first jet aircraft.
    He took amphetamines to work 16-hour days followed by barbiturates to go to sleep, eventually suffering a nervous breakdown (1940).
    He retired from Power Jets after suffering a second nervous breakdown (1946).
    After he was initially rejected by the RAF for being undersized, he put himself through a rigorous exercise program and special diet to add three inches to his chest, then re-applied under an assumed name and was accepted.
    One of the investment bankers who became a partner in Power Jets said, 'The impression he made was overwhelming... This was genius, not talent.'
    When the British government nationalized Power Jets, he received nothing for his shares in the company while other investors got up to a threefold return on their original investment (1944).
    After the nationalization experience, he changed his political affiliation from socialist to the Conservative Party.
    A Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors later granted him £100,000 in recognition of his work (1948).
    He was named a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Credit: C. Fishel


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