He also read a great deal of the works of Jules Verne. He wrote in his autobiography that the dream of flying came to him while contemplating the magnificent skies of Brazil from the plantation. In Santos-Dumont's father was partially paralyzed by a fall from a horse.
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He sold the plantation and went to Europe with his wife and Santos-Dumont in search of treatment. The price quoted was 1, francs for a two-hour flight, plus payment for any damage caused and for returning the balloon to Paris. This was a considerable sum of money, and Santos-Dumont decided not to make the flight, reasoning that "If I risk 1, francs for an afternoon's pleasure I shall find it either good or bad.
If it is bad the money will be lost. If it is good I shall want to repeat it and I shall not have the means. In the family returned to Europe, but Henriques felt too ill to continue on to Paris from Lisbon, and Alberto made the journey on his own. His father's health deteriorated and he decided to return to Brazil, where he died on 30 August For the next four years Alberto lived in Paris, studying physics , chemistry , mechanics , and electricity with the help of a private tutor, and returning to Brazil for short holidays.
During this period he sold his Peugeot, replacing it with a more powerful and faster De Dion motor-tricycle. Lachambre and Machuron. In his biography Santos-Dumont describes the book as "a revelation", and resolved to make contact with the balloon constructors when he reached Paris. Enchanted by the experience, during the train journey back to Paris Santos-Dumont told Machuron that he wanted to have a balloon constructed for himself.
After numerous balloon flights, Santos-Dumont turned to the design of steerable balloons, which became known as dirigibles.
These could be propelled through the air rather than drifting along with the wind. A major cause of the accidents to his first two airships had been loss of pressure causing the elongated envelope to lose shape, and for his third design he adopted a much shorter and fatter envelope shape, and towards the end of made a number of successful flights in it. On 8 August , during one of his attempts, his dirigible began to lose hydrogen, and started to descend and was unable to clear the roof of the Trocadero Hotel.
Santos-Dumont was left hanging in the basket from the side of the hotel. With the help of the Paris fire brigade, he climbed to the roof without injury, but the dirigible was a complete loss. He immediately ordered a replacement to be constructed, the No. On 19 October , after several more attempts, Santos-Dumont succeeded in making the return flight.
Immediately after he reached Saint-Cloud, a controversy broke out regarding the precise timing of the flight: although he had reached his destination in under 30 minutes there had been a delay of over a minute before his mooring line was picked up. However a satisfactory compromise was reached, and Santos-Dumont was eventually given the prize, which he announced would be given to the poor of Paris. Winning the de la Meurthe prize made Santos-Dumont an international celebrity.
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He would float his No. The fashionable people of the day copied various aspects of his style of dress, from his high collared shirts to his signature Panama hat. In Santos-Dumont shipped his new airship No. Because he was the best-known aviator at the time, the Fair committee went to great lengths to ensure his participation, including modifying the rules. President Theodore Roosevelt.
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However, upon arrival in St. Sabotage, although suspected, was never proven. Santos-Dumont did not participate in the contest after suspicion of the deed, a repeat of a similar incident in London, began to focus on Santos-Dumont himself. He left the Fair and returned immediately to France. In , after Santos-Dumont complained to his friend Louis Cartier about the difficulty of checking his pocket watch during flight, Cartier created his first men's wristwatch , thus allowing Santos-Dumont to check his flight performance while keeping both hands on the controls.
Although Santos-Dumont continued to work on non-rigid airships, his primary interest soon turned to heavier-than-air aircraft. By , he had finished his first fixed-wing aircraft design, and also a helicopter.
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Santos-Dumont's final design were the Demoiselle monoplanes Nos. These aircraft were used by Dumont for personal transport. The fuselage consisted of three specially reinforced bamboo booms, and the pilot sat a seat between the main wheels of a tricycle landing gear.
The Demoiselle was controlled in flight by a tail unit that functioned both as elevator and rudder , and by wing warping No.
They planned a production run of units, built 50 but sold only 15, for 7, francs for each airframe. It was the world's first series production aircraft. The Demoiselle could be constructed in only 15 days. The June edition of the Popular Mechanics magazine published drawings of the Demoiselle and stated, "This machine is better than any other which has ever been built, for those who wish to reach results with the least possible expense and with a minimum of experimenting.
Hail this star of South America The land of the brave Indian warrior! Santos-Dumont's final flight as a pilot was made in a Demoiselle on 4 January Santo-Dumont suffered only bruises. In March Santos-Dumont announced that he was retiring from aviation. He secluded himself in his house and it was rumoured that he was suffering from a nervous breakdown caused by overwork, but it is probable that he was depressed about the multiple sclerosis from which he was later known to suffer.
Upset by the allegation and depressed about his illness Santos-Dumont burned all his papers and plans. He spent much of the s in Swiss and French sanatoria, though returning to Brazil at times. For his arrival in Brazil on the luxury liner Cap Arcona in , a dozen members of the Brazilian scientific community boarded a seaplane with the intention of paying him a flying welcome.
The plane crashed with the loss of all on board;  Santos-Dumont's growing despondency deepened even further, and he returned to Switzerland.
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In Santos-Dumont's nephew went to Switzerland and took him back to Brazil. Until the end of his life, he kept a picture of her on his desk alongside a vase of fresh flowers. Nonetheless, there is no indication that Santos-Dumont and Acosta stayed in touch after her flight; upon his death she was reported as saying that she hardly knew him. The hill was purposefully chosen because of its great steepness as a proof that ingenuity could make it possible to build a comfortable house in that unlikely site.
After building it, he used to spend his summers there to escape the heat in Rio, calling it A Encantada "The Enchanted" after its street, Rua do Encanto. The treads of the exterior stairs are hollowed alternately on the right and left, to enable people to climb them comfortably. The house is now a museum.
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