The Sociocultural Genesis of the Flying Saucer
(Swedenborg Hybrid Ornithopter of 1714)
by Wesley R. Smith, Ph.D.
Among the most badly handled, most interesting, most distorted, and most eclectic of
aerospace history subjects is the origin of the use of the circular, elliptical and
annular wing planforms (shapes) in aircraft design.
A quick review of the writer's memory and library reveal that more than 50 aircraft
have been designed, and/or built, using an ellipse or circle as a wing configuration.
However, this listing is by no means a complete survey, only a brief overview of what can
be located at hand. In fact, there is an entire U.S. Patent subclass (Class 244,
Aeronautics; Subclass 21.2 Airplane, circular) dealing with aircraft using a circular wing
planform. Likewise, a number of lighter-than-air or hybrid designs have appeared in the
course of aeronautical history which also use the disc shape as a basis for the gas