Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Plumley, L. 2023. Innovation for the Air: A Brief History of Worldwide Aviation. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Lauren Plumley 2023.


The purpose of this report is to present a brief but comprehensive overview of the variety of innovations related to aviation, and to discuss their impact on scientific progress over the course of human history. Relevant discoveries from the fields of physics and aerodynamics, and the numerous technologies built based upon these discoveries, are discussed over a period ranging from ancient times to the twenty-first century. The scope of this report is an overview of the development of powered and unpowered aircraft, including lighter-than-air, heavier-than-air, and aerospace technologies. Aviation developments were generally not limited to one specific country or person, but often came from a combination of research and testing from many engineers and enthusiasts from a variety of locations and backgrounds. Races to meet milestones would inspire competition between individuals, scientific institutions, and countries. It is hoped that this report will be instructive to readers who may not have extensive familiarity with aviation-related history, and will promote personal research and interest.