Editor’s note (4/2/2017): This week marks the 100-year anniversary of the U.S. entry into the First World War. Scientific American, founded in 1845, spent the war years covering the monumental innovations that changed the course of history, from the first tanks and aerial combat to the first widespread attacks with chemical weapons. To mark the centennial, we are republishing the article below and many others. For full access to our archival coverage of the Great War sign up for an All Access subscription today.
The cutting edge of technology in 1915 was focused on improving the performance of the airplane in the hostile skies above the battlefields of the Great War and also increasing the versatility of this invention that was barely 12 years old.
By the second year of the First World War, a million soldiers had been killed, two million injured, and the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people were disrupted. Civilian research into aviation had been co-opted by military necessity, as all sides became increasingly desperate to find some way of gaining an advantage, through science, technology or any other avenue possible. All of the images in this slide show from 1915 involve the use aviation in a military capacity. There is precious little in the Scientific American Archive from 1915 that concerns itself with aviation of the civilian kind.
For a longer look at the history of aviation (wartime and peacetime), fly through our archive at scientificamerican.com/magazine/sa