Graf Zeppelin

Origin of the Name

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Graf von Zeppelin

Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin
Nationality German
Count (Graf), German general and later airship manufacturer
Born 8. July 1838 at Konstanz, Grand Duchy of Baden (now part of Baden-Württemberg, Germany).
Died 8. March 1917 at Konstanz, Germany
In 1853 Count (Graf) Ferdinand von Zeppelin attended the polytechnic at Stuttgart.

I n 1855 he became a cadet of the military school at Ludwigsburg and then started his career as an army officer in the army of Württemberg.

By 1858 Zeppelin was Leutenant in the Army of Württemberg and that year he was given leave to study science, engineering and chemistry at Tübingen. The Prussians mobilising for the Austro-Sardinian War interrupted this study in 1859 when he was called up to the Ingenieurkorps (Prussian engineering corps) at Ulm.

In 1863 Zeppelin took leave to act as an observer for the Northern Potomac army in the American Civil War against the Confederates. Later he took part in an expedition with Russians and Indians to the source of the Mississippi river and he made his first ascent with a balloon.

In 1865 Zeppelin was appointed adjutant of the King of Württemberg and as general staff officer participated in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and was awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross) of the Order of Distinguished Service of Württemberg.

In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 his extended ride behind enemy lines made him famous among Germans.

From 1882 until 1885 Zeppelin was commander of the 19th Uhlans in Ulm, and lastly as envoy of Württemberg in Berlin.

In 1890 his role as commander was criticised and he had to retire from the Army of Würtemberg, with the rank of General leutenant.

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin was preoccupied with the idea of guidable balloons. He had already outlined an overall construction system in 1874.

After his forced resignation from the military in 1890, Zeppelin worked fulltime on his concept. Together with other investors he founded in May 1898 the company Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Luftschiffart. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin invested 441.000 Marks, over half the total capital. Actual construction then started of what was to be the first successful rigid airship, the Zeppelin LZ1. Donations and a lottery made it possible to further develop the airships.

In 1908 the Zeppelin LZ4 crashed at Echterdingen. The crash sparked public interest in the development of the airships. A subsequent collection campaign raised 6,5 million German marks and the money was used to create the 'Luftschiffbau-Zeppelin GmbH' and a Zeppelin foundation.

As of 2010 Luftschiffbau-Zeppelin GmbH still exist.

© John Asmussen 2010. All rights reserved.