Research Grant

Good ideas today are often brought to the point of production with the help of a research grant from one source or another. Ideas must go through the long and expensive phases of research and development before a final product is ready to market and the person, or group of persons, behind the idea would often fall short of expense money if not for the help from a research grant or two somewhere along the way.

This hasn’t always been the case, however. The concept of a research grant is relatively new although it’s probably impossible to pinpoint a date when the first such grant was issued. It’s quite likely that the Industrial Revolution in the United States helped the research grant become a reality.

During the time before the Industrial Revolution, someone with a good idea would have to research and develop it without the financial boon of a research grant. Instead, the inventor made some pretty hefty sacrifices in order to make (usually) his dream come true. Maybe this is where we get the classic but very theatrical image of the mad scientist.

But even without a research grant to ease the crazed drive to bring an invention to fruition, not all scientists were mad. Some of them were just plain determined.

Take the Wright Brothers, for instance. Even without the benefit of a research grant, they developed a machine that could fly. There were other models of flying machines in various stages of development at the time but the brothers from Dayton, Ohio, were the first to develop aircraft controls that were mechanically capable of flying a fixed wing aircraft. Most other airplanes under development at the time were based upon wings that flapped, much like a bird’s wings do.

Instead of a research grant, the Wright brothers had a bicycle shop to fund their invention. It also provided the mechanical know-how and the impetus to experiment with a flying machine in the first place.

Without a research grant, they built their own wind tunnel in which they tested various theories, techniques, and mechanical systems. They built prototype machines and then refined them, over and over and over again, until they achieved the desired results. And they paid for the transportation costs to take themselves and their equipment out of state to an appropriate testing ground – the breezy seashore at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Without a research grant, the brothers took their perfected glider model flying machine and motorized it. They designed the body, the wings, even the propellers. They themselves spent hours in the library, studying gasoline-powered engines although there was nothing yet printed about airborne gasoline-powered engines. They had yet to be invented but the Wright brothers figured it out anyway.

Once they developed a motorized airplane that actually worked, they even had to learn to fly the thing.

Of course, the airplanes that followed became increasingly more complex machines. It wasn’t long until an entire team of developers, inventors, was needed to improve the design and advance the science of aviation.

Today’s airplane technologies are often funded with a hefty research grant, which could come from any number of sources – corporate, private, and government. It would be almost impossible to advance the science of aviation at the level with which we are familiar today without the collaboration of a team of very skilled people and some very expensive equipment. And research grants.