Biography of Famous Flyer in Greek Mythology Icarus Part 1

A biography and historical account about early flyer Icarus, who flew with wings made by his father Daedalus in Greek mythology.

INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER--NOTED AVIATORS

ICARUS (c. 1100 B.C.)

Most people envied Icarus. The boy was growing up at the opulent court of King Minos of Crete, where his father, Daedalus, was the famous and respected resident architect and inventor. His father's laboratory and workshop were his playrooms. His toys were intricate, mind-teasing puzzles: a three-dimensional chess set; sealed porphyry boxes that could be opened only by birdsong in perfect harmony; life-sized robots--talking, moving statues so real that they perspired under the hot Aegean sun; a card game with a deck of 7,000 cards, each different; word games in a language Daedalus himself had created; riddles so complex that few of the wisest men understood the questions, let alone the answers. Icarus looked on as his father designed a theater in which each of the 3,000 seats, by a trick of perspective, seemed to be exactly the same distance from the stage. He played in the palace his father had constructed, with its thousands of rooms, many so cleverly hidden that only Daedalus had been inside them.

But the project that was most exciting to Icarus was the series of secret experiments his father had long been conducting in the new science of aviation. Daedalus had watched, years earlier, as the witch Medea launched her flying chariot, drawn by fiery dragons. He knew that he could only envy her; he had no supernatural powers, no magic, only an observant mind and a knowledge of the principles of aerodynamics, which were available to anyone wise enough to understand them.

Daedalus spent countless hours intently watching the flight of eagles. With his young son, he would be up before the sun, crouching on a cliff, wrapped in his woolen cloak against the golden chill of an Aegean dawn, his eyes fixed on the graceful sail and swoop of the haughty eagle.

"To fly," he would cry out to Icarus, his voice echoing down the cliffs to the wine-dark sea, "to soar above the pull of the earth, to be master of the sky!" That was his dream. If he could accomplish that, all else would seem only toys, only tricks.

With Icarus to help, he experimented with materials. Wings of gossamer-thin silk mounted on river reeds tore into shreds in the rush of wind. The sail canvas of Aegean fishermen proved far too heavy. Skin of blowfish, lamb intestine stretched tight--nothing worked. Every material strong enough was too heavy; if light enough, too weak. In despair he watched one more cold dawn as the eagle circled in the sky, its grace seeming to mock the earthbound Daedalus. A feather drifted slowly to earth, twisting, turning in the breeze. "Of course," he whispered. "Why have I been so blind?"

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