On National Inventors Day, let’s celebrate travel

Move over, Valentine’s Day; National Inventors Day is today, February 11! This date was selected because it’s Thomas Edison’s birthdayone of the greatest inventors in US history. The day honors all inventors and recognizes the incredible impact their inventions have had on society worldwide. 

In the spirit of innovation, we thought it might be fun to look at a few famous inventors in the travel industry and showcase how their contributions have connected and changed the world. 

Rolling down the tracks 

Rail transportation traces back to 600 B.C., when the Greeks carved grooves in paved limestone roads for their wheeled vehicles. Fast forward to 1803, when Richard Trevithick developed the first steam-powered vehicle to replace horse-drawn carts on tramways. And English inventor, George Stephenson, is credited with inventing the very first steam locomotive engine for railways in 1812.  

Rail innovations that connect us 

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act into law. This required the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroad companies to build a transcontinental railroad linking the United States from east to west. It took seven years for the two companies to finally connect Sacramento, CA and Omaha, NE, with the final 17.6-karat golden spike driven into the linked railroads in Promontory, UT on May 10, 1869. The track’s completion reduced travel time for the 3,000-mile journey from months to under one week. 

Fun fact: Did you know the world’s first travel agency got its start thanks to a train trip? In 1841, an English Baptist minister named Thomas Cook organized a train excursion for 540 parishioners, negotiating a set fare that included accommodations and meals. The trip was so successful that demand grew, and the worldwide travel agency of Thomas Cook & Son was born. 

Flying high 

We’ve all heard of Orville and Wilbur Wright. Yet theres actually some debate as to who truly flew the first airplane. If you ask someone from Brazil, they’ll likely tell you it was Alberto Santos-Dumont. He famously piloted his fixed-wing biplane a distance of 200 feet, at a height of about 15 feet, before large Parisian crowd on October 23, 1906.  

The debate comes down to how you define a “flight.” While the Wright brothers’ famous flight of 120 feet took place earlier – on the morning of December 17, 1903 – Santos-Dumont’s supporters claim the 1906 demonstration was the first powered flight,” because his wheeled craft took off completely unassisted, while the Wright Flyer was launched down a guiding rail and required the strong winds at Kitty Hawk to lift it off the ground. 

Flight innovations that connect us 

Do you know who was the first person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic in an airplane? Most guessers will claim Charles Lindbergh. But the real answer is Captain Jon Alcock, an English pilot, and his navigator, Arthur Whitten Brown. 

In 1913 the British newspaper, The Daily Mail, offered £10,000 (around $1.1 million in today’s dollars) to the first aviator to cross the Atlantic within 72 hours with no stops. After a harrowing 16-hour flight that included blinding fog, debilitating ice and a failed radio, Alcock and Brown crash landed into a bog in Ireland on June 15, 1919, completing the world’s first transatlantic flight and making history. 

Fun fact: The Boeing 747’s wingspan of 190 feet is longer than the Wright brothers first flight. 

Cruising the high seas 

On May 22, 1819 the S.S. Savannah set sail – aided by a steam engine – from the US city bearing its name. She arrived in Liverpool, England 29 days laterbecoming the first American ship to cross the Atlantic. It wasn’t until 1844 however, that the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company started offering leisure-oriented trips, sailing from Southampton, England to Gibraltar, Athens and Malta.  

Cruising innovations that connect us 

The actual inventor of modern pleasure cruising is Albert Ballin, general director of the Hamburg-America Line. Ballin and his wife, Marianne, acted as cruise hosts when the Augusta Victoria embarked on the world’s very first all-inclusive pleasure cruise on January 22, 1891. She departed from Cuxhaven, Germany with 241 passengers. The Mediterranean cruise lasted 57 days and stopped at a dozen-plus ports, complete with shore excursions. Ballin went on to design the first vessel built exclusively for luxury cruising, the 407-foot Prinzessin Victoria Luise launched on June 29, 1900.  

Fun fact: With the relative affordability and speed of modern jet travel, interest in cruising dwindled after the 1960s. It was the popular 1970s-80s television sitcom“The Love Boat,” that brought the idea of cruise vacations into the mainstream. 

Amadeus solutions continue to connect us 

Today, Amadeus carries on the legacy of bringing people together through travel technology and cross-industry innovation. We work with our customers and partners to shape the future of travel, delivering solutions like Amadeus Selling Platform Connect to connect rail, air, cruise – and more – with the global travel marketplaceenabling you to provide exceptional journeys for each and every customer 

What future innovations do you see on the travel horizon?  


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