Alexander Graham Bell – The Tetrahedral Principle in Kite Structure

The tetrahedral principle enables us to construct out of light materials solid frameworks of almost any desired form, and the resulting structures are admirably adapted for the support of aero-surfaces of any desired kind, size, or shape.

Although best known for developing the practical telephone — for which he became the first, in 1876, to secure a US patent — the Scottish-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell is also noted for his work in aerodynamics, a rather more photogenic endeavour perhaps, as evidenced by the wonderful imagery documenting his experiments with tetrahedral kites. The series of photographs depict Bell and his colleagues demonstrating and testing out a number of different kite designs, all based upon the tetrahedral structure, to whose pyramid-shaped cells Bell was drawn as they could share joints and spars and so crucially lessen the weight-to-surface area ratio.

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