Whittle, Sir Frank

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Whittle, Sir Frank

Sir Frank Whittle, 1907–96, English aeronautical engineer. Whittle was one of the first persons to associate the gas turbine with jet propulsion. Previously the gas turbine had been regarded as a machine for supplying shaft power, but Whittle saw it as an ideal means for providing jet propulsion in aircraft. As a Royal Air Force (RAF) engineering officer, he patented in 1930 the basic designs for the turbojet engine. During the 1930s and early 1940s he and his associates constructed a number of turbojet engines and jet planes. These experiments led to the modern jet aircraft engine. The Germans and the Italians who constructed and flew the first jet aircraft used the basic engine designs that Whittle patented in the 1930s; the early American jet engines were also based on Whittle's work. He retired from the RAF in 1948 as an air commodore, worked in the aviation and oil industry, emigrated to the United States in 1977, and taught (1977–79) at Annapolis.

See his autobiography (1953); biography by J. Golley (1987).

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