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Cities Named for Engineers

Chanute, Kansas is located in the southeast corner of Kansas. In the early 1870s, Octave Chanute was the chief engineer for the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad running southerly from Kansas City to the Texas border. He located the line along with several others in Kansas; and where it crossed the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad a town grew up around this junction in 1872 that was named Chanute. Octave Chanute, who was born in Paris in 1832, came to the United States with his father who was a Professor at Jefferson College. They later moved to New York City where the young Octave decided to become a civil engineer. He worked on the Hudson River Railroad between New York and Albany after which he went west to work on railroads in Illinois and later Kansas. He built the first bridge across the Missouri River at Kansas City working with George Morison as one of his assistants. He returned east working on the Erie Railroad and became one of the leading railroad engineers. He researched the treatment of wood and ran several treatment plants in the mid-west. He became interested in flight in the 1870s corresponding with many of the men experimenting with airplanes around the world, and in 1894, wrote a book on the topic entitled Progress in Flying Machines. He became a colleague with the Wright Brothers encouraging them in their experiments as well as designing gliders himself and testing them on the dunes of Lake Michigan. He was President of the ASCE in 1891 and of the Western Society of Engineers in 1901. His image was placed on a 21¢ United States Post Office Airmail Stamp in 1979. In addition, his image is painted on the frieze of the rotunda under the dome of the United States Capitol in Washington, D. C. along with DaVinci, Langley and the Wright Brothers as pioneers in flight. Later an Air Force Base was named for him in Illinois that now houses the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum. (For more information see Locomotive to Aeromotive: Octave Chanute and the Transportation Revolution by Simine Short and “O. Chanute, C. E.,” by Frank Griggs and David Biggs, in the Journal of Bridge Engineering, September 2009.)

Octave Chanute
Octave Chanute