Richard Pearse

  • Birth

    Richard Pearse was born at Waitohi Flat, Temuka (New Zealand). He was the fourth of nine children, and his family had a little orchestra where each member played a different instrument. Richard played the cello.
    His father was a farmer.
  • Period: to

    Richard Pearse's life and inventions

  • 21 years old

    After Pearse finished school, he wanted to study engineering at Canterbury College. The family could not afford it though, so instead they gave him 100 acres of farm land when he turned 21.
  • Ideas for powered flight

    There is evidence that Pearse was working on ideas for powered flight from 1899.
  • First patented invention

    Pearse's first patented invention was a new style of bicycle. He was more interested in flying than cycling however.
    He kept in touch with experiments overseas by reading the 'Scientific American' journal.
    There is speculation that Pearse had built his own two-cylinder petrol engine by this time.
  • First public flight

    Once Pearse had built his two-cylinder petrol engine, he then built a monoplane using bamboo, tubular steel, wire, and canvas.
    His first public flight was down Main Waitohi Road, next to his farm. He taxied down his farm paddocks, achieved flight for perhaps 50metres and then crashed on top of his gorse fence.
    There was a great deal of eyewitness accounts to this flight, although later on in his life Pearse would write that he never did acheive flight.
  • Wright brother's first flight

    The Wright brothers were Americans who also built their own plane, and they achieved flight in 1903. They are the people most famous for being the first people to fly, and with Pearse himself saying that he did not manage to fly properly, this remains fairly undisputed.
  • Patented aircraft

    In July 1906, Richard Pearse patented his aircraft. Regardless of whether or not he actually flew, his first aircrarft was remarkable with several ideas that could be said to be looking into the future. His monoplane had wing flaps in the way that modern aircraft do today, and it also had a tricycle undercarriage with a steerable nose wheel.
  • Moved to South Otago

    Richard Pearse eventually moved from Temuka to South Otago due to failing as a farmer and being harrassed by his neighbours. Once he moved, he started inventing farm machinery.
  • Conscription

    Pearse was conscripted into the Otago Infantry Regiment in 1917, which put a stop to his farm machinery inventions.
  • Sent overseas

    Pearse was sent overseas with the military. Illness would prevent him from doing so again later in the same year, and he returned to New Zealand in October.
  • Moved to Christchurch

    Pearse moved up to Christchurch in 1921 where he built three houses.
  • Designed second aircraft

    In the early 1930s Pearse went on to design and build a second plane, his Utility Plane.
  • Patent application

    Pearse applied for his second aircraft patent in 1943
  • Patent approved

    His patent for the second plane was finally approved in 1949. He constructed the plane in great secrecy, and it featured some of the main features of the Harrier jump jet, with a tilting engine to allow for vertical take-off and landing. Pearse became bitter when aeroplane companies did not show more interest in his ideas.
  • Admitted to a mental hosptal

    Pearse became increasingly paranoid and was admitted to Sunnyside Mental Hospital in 1951.
  • Died

    Pearse died in 1953 of a heart attack. He never married.