William Henson was born in 1812 in Somerset, England. He had many interests. Although he joined his father in the lacemaking industry, he also worked at developing a breech-loading cannon, an ice-making machine, and a method for waterproofing fabrics. He had patents for a safety razor, lacemaking machinery, and improvements to steam engines.
William Henson proposed the design of the Aerial Steam Carriage.
- © 2001 National Air and Space Museum,
He is best known for the design of his Aerial Steam Carriage, which he patented in 1843. Although the aircraft was never built, it foreshadowed the modern airplane. Henson even suggested that a flying machine could be used to convey people and goods from place to place. Henson and his partner John Stringfellow attempted to launch an international airline, the Aerial Transit Company, which would fly as far as China. However, they were unable to find financial backing and the scheme fell apart.
Henson and Stringfellow built and tested another flying machine model in 1846. The attempt failed, and Henson lost interest in the project and emigrated to the United States.