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A to Z

Aerodynamics and Aerodonetics

2nd July 2019

In 1907 Fred published ‘Aerodynamics‘, the first part of his two volume publication called ‘Aerial Flight’. It brought together Fred’s ideas and theories on many aspects of flight for the first time.

BSA take over the Lanchester Motor Company in 1931

Lanchester Motor Company was bought out by Birmingham Small Arms Ltd and managed by another BSA firm Daimler to save it from liquidation. It relocates to Daimler factory in Radford, Coventry. George Lanchester stays Chief Engineer. Frank transfers to London Sales Department.

Colour photography patent

In the same year (1895) that he developed the first all-British motor car and continued with his passion for aeronautics, Fred Lanchester somehow managed to find time to patent a method for ‘Photography in colours’.

Disc Brakes

In December 1902 Fred patented an invention that offered ‘…an improved form of brake mechanism for power-propelled vehicles and…particularly to an improved construction of road wheel brake.’ The new system was featured in the Lanchester 18 h.p. model.

Epicyclic gearbox

In the days before synchromesh or automatic gearboxes, it was a real challenge for a driver to match the revolutions of the engine to make sure that the final drive gear matched the revolutions of the road wheels. Often there was a lot of scraping, grunting and crashing as drivers would attempt to change gear successfully.

Fred’s fascinating family

Fred was born to the architect Henry Jones Lanchester and Octavia, a teacher of mathematics and Latin in 1868. He was one of nine siblings, eight who survived into adulthood, the twin of his younger brother Frank dying shortly after he was born.


In June 1894 Fred presented a paper to the Birmingham Natural History and Philosophical Society entitled The Soaring of birds and the possibilities of mechanical flight. This was based upon years of experiments Fred and his brothers conducted.

Hybrid engines

As early as 1915 Fred was beginning to think about the possibilities hybrid petrol-electric engines offered. In fact he took a patent out in 1915 for an internal combustion engine, electric motor and and a generator on one shaft. This was not developed further until the 1920s when Fred and his brother George began to investigate the possibilities further.


Have you ever had to draw a series of parallel lines or hatches on a drawing and got bored? Fred’s first job was working as a draughtsman in a patent agent’s office and experienced the same sense of dullness at this mundane, boring and repetitive role. He set to work thinking of an invention that could save time and invented the Isometrograph which he patented in November 1888 when he was just 20.