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Hugo Junkers
Born (1859-02-03)February 3, 1859
Rheydt, Rhine Province,
Kingdom of Prussia
Died February 3, 1935(1935-02-03) (aged 76)
Gauting, Bavaria
Place of burial Munich Waldfriedhof
Nationality German
Education Royal Polytechnic University in Charlottenburg
Royal Technical University in Aachen
Occupation engineer

Hugo Junkers (3 February 1859 – 3 February 1935) was a German engineer and aircraft designer. As such he is generally credited with pioneering the design of all-metal airplanes and flying wings. As founder of the Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke AG he was one of the mainstays of the German aircraft industry in the years between [world war I] and [world war II]. In particular his multi-engined all-metal passenger- and freightplanes helped establish airlines in Germany as well as all over the world. Although his name is also linked to some of the most fearsome German warplanes of the second world war, Hugo Junkers himself had nothing to do with their development. He was forced out of his own company by the Nazi government in 1934 and died in 1935.

Next to aircraft, Junkers also built both Diesel and petrol engines and held various patents on thermodynamic and metallurgic subjects. He was also one of the main sponsors of the Bauhaus movement and facilitated the move of the Bauhaus from Weimar to Dessau (Where his factory was situated) in 1925.

Amongst the highlight of his career were the Junkers J 1 of 1915, (the first aircraft to use an all-metal skin, cantilever wing design and minimal external bracing), The Junkers F 13 of 1919 (the worlds first all-metal passenger plane), , the Junkers W 33 (who made the first succesfull east-to-west crossing of the Atlantic ocean) The Junkers G 38 'flying wing' and the Junkers Ju 52, affectionately nicknamed 'Tante Ju', one of the most famous airliners of the 1930's.


Junkers was born in Rheydt in the Prussian Rhine Province, the son of a well-off industrialist. After taking his Abitur exams in 1878 he attended the Royal Polytechnic University in Charlottenburg and the Royal Technical University in Aachen, where he completed his engineering studies in 1883. At first he returned to Rheydt to work in his father's company, but soon attended further lectures on electromagnetism and thermodynamics held by Adolf Slaby in Charlottenburg. Slaby placed him with the Continental-Gasgesellschaft in Dessau, where he worked on the development of the first opposed-piston engine. In order to measure heating value, Junkers patented a calorimeter and founded a manufacturing company in 1892. Junkers personally introduced the calorimeter at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where it was awarded a gold medal. The next year he patented a gas fired bath boiler, which he refined as a tankless heater. In 1895 he founded Junkers & Co. to utilize his inventions.

From 1897 he was offered a professorship of mechanical engineering at Aachen, where he lectured until 1912. Working as an engineer at the same time, Junkers taking substantial gains of Junkers & Co. devised, patented, and exploited calorimeters, domestic appliances (gas stoves), pressure regulators, gas oil engines, fan heaters and other inventions.

Aeronautical Work

Junkers' aeronautical work began in earnest only at the age of fifty, when he worked with engineer Hans Reissner in Aachen. Reissner had developed an all-metall aircraft, which first started in 1909 at the Brand Heath, equipped with corrugated iron wings built by Junkers & Co. in Dessau. The iron wings were patented one year later. Junkers had a wind tunnel erected and invented a first hydraulic brake.

Junkers on the airfield

He had far-sighted ideas of metal aeroplanes and flying wings, but always realities of war dragged him back. During World War I the government forced him to focus on aircraft production. In 1915, he developed the world's first practical all metal aircraft design, the Junkers J 1 "Blechesel"[1] (Sheetmetal Donkey), which survived on museum display in Berlin until World War II. His firm's first military production design in 1916-17 was the armored-fuselage two seat all metal sesquiplane, the Junkers J.I, considered the best German ground attack aircraft of the war. The J.I's pattern of an armored fuselage that protected the nose mounted engine, pilot and observer in a unitized metal "bathtub", was the possible inspiration for Sergei Ilyushin's later Il-2 Shturmovik (conceivably appropriate as Junkers did have a manufacturing plant in Fili, a suburb of Moscow, in the Soviet Union in the 1920s) with a similar armored fuselage design. By 1918 his firm had created the world's first low-winged single seat fighter aircraft, the Junkers D.I, which also pioneered the use of duralumin throughout an airframe. However, the D.I did not enter production until 1918. He also produced a two seat fighter (pilot and rear gunner), the Junkers CL.I. Postwar Soviet aviation pioneer Andrei Tupolev and American aviation designer William Bushnell Stout each owed much to Hugo Junkers in the designs of their earlier aircraft, which benefitted from Junkers' corrugated light metal construction philosophy.

Junkers (centre) with W 33 pilots Johann Risztics (left) and Wilhelm Zimmermann (right), celebrating a world record of 65 h 25 m non-stop flight at Dessau, July 1928

The Junkers F.13 from 1919 was the first of several successful civil aircraft designs of Junkers Flugzeugwerke including the Junkers Ju 52/3m from 1932. Through a variety of business initiatives Junkers was also active in founding and developing airlines around the globe initially aiming to sell its aircraft. Airlines where Junkers played a pivotal role in early phases of their development include Deutsche Luft Hansa and Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano. However, several business ventures failed from wider economic or political problems that hamstrung sound engineering plans. But Junkers always had more ideas: the massive four engined G.38, nicknamed "Der Grosse Dessauer", delivered to Luft Hansa made no commercial trips for many months as he repeatedly recalled it to the factory for improvements.

Political Position

Junkers was a socialist and a pacifist. For these reasons, he had several occasions to cross swords with German leadership. In 1917 the government forced him into partnership with Anthony Fokker to ensure wartime production targets would be met. During the 1920s in Germany and among Junkers' employees a wide spectrum of political views was present. About every aspect of the business, and of its environment, there were differing opinions. For members of all the many groups represented in Junkers, aviation offered hope for national renewal. Their varied views led to lively internal corporate politics. In 1926, unable to make government loan repayments after a failed venture to build planes for the USSR, he lost control of most of his businesses.

Upon the 1933 Machtergreifung the new Nazi government interfered and the new Reichskommissar of Aviation Hermann Göring (who allegedly had unsuccessfully applied as a test pilot in the early 1920s) aimed to make Junkers a tool of German re-armament. The Nazi authorities immediately demanded ownership of Hugo Junkers' patents and the majority of shares of his remaining companies. Under threat of imprisonment he eventually acquiesced, to little avail; a year later he was under house arrest and was finally forced to leave Dessau. He died on 3 February 1935 in Gauting near Munich.


Hugo Junkers is mainly known in connection with aircraft bearing his name. These include some he reluctantly developed for the German Empire during World War I, later in minor association with Anthony Fokker, as well as civil aircraft designs during the Interwar Period produced by Junkers Flugzeugwerke (Junkers Aircraft Works). Junkers, a pacifist and not on good terms with the Nazis, died in 1935 and was not involved in the development of Junkers military aircraft for the Third Reich's Luftwaffe before or during World War II.


  • 1888-1893 work with Dessauer Continental-Gasgesellschaft
  • 1892 Patents calorie meter
  • 1895 Founds Junkers & Co in Dessau to build gas engines & heaters
  • 1897-1912 Professor at the RWTH Aachen University in Aachen
  • 1908 Hans Reissner with Junkers' help starts work on all-metal aircraft
  • 1910 Patents Nurflügel concept
  • 1913/14 uses wind tunnel
  • 1915 Junkers J 1 all-metal monoplane aircraft flies (world's first practical all-metal aircraft to fly)
  • 1916 Junkers J 2 pioneering all metal monoplane fighter aircraft for the Luftstreitkräfte, six built
  • 20 October 1917 – 1919 Partnership Junkers-Fokkerwerke AG; mass production of 227 J4 aircraft
  • 1919 Junkers and Fokker part ways, company renamed Junkers Flugzeugwerke AG
  • 1919 First civilian all-metal aircraft Junkers F.13 flies
  • 1919 Starts work on "Giant" JG1, to seat passengers within thick wings
  • 1921 Allied Aeronautical Commission of Control orders JG1 destroyed (exceeds post-war size limit)
  • 1921 Founds "Abteilung Luftverkehr der Junkerswerke" (later merged into Deutsche Luft Hansa)
  • 1922 Starts military aircraft production near Moscow, financed by German government loans
  • 1922 Proposes 100-passenger J-1000 aircraft - never built
  • 1925 Russian project fails, German government demands repayments
  • 1926 Legal battles end with Junkers losing several companies
  • 1928 First East-west transatlantic flight by Köhl, Hünefeld and Fitzmaurice in Junkers W33
  • 1930 receives Siemens-Ring for his scientific contributions to combustion engines and metallic airplanes
  • 1931 Junkers G38 34-passenger airliner delivered - largest in world until Tupolev's Maxim Gorky in 1934 - only two built
  • 1932 After great crash, saves Junkers Flugzeugbau and Motorenbau from bankruptcy, by selling virtually all his other assets
  • 1933 Nazi Government demands control of Junkers patents and companies under threat of high treason charges (see Horst Zoeller's timeline in external links).
  • 1934 Junkers placed under house arrest at Bayrischzell and founds Research Institute Prof. Junkers GmbH.
  • 1935 Dies under house arrest during negotiations to cede remaining stock and interests in Junkers.
  • 1935 Therese Junkers cedes control of interests to Third Reich at a fraction of their true worth.

See also

  • Junkers company
  • Burt Rutan - who inaugurated the second major change in aviation materials technology
  • German inventors and discoverers


  • Detlef Siegfried. Der Fliegerblick: Intellektuelle Radikalismus und Flugzeugproduktion bei Junkers 1914 bis 1934. (Historisches Forschungszentrum der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Reihe Politik- und Gesellschaftsgeschichte, nr. 58) Bonn: J.H.W. Dietz 2001 ISBN 3801241181


  1. Junkers factory designations for their aircraft in the World War I period used Arabic numerals, as in the Junkers J 1 Blechesel, while the later armored J.I all metal sesquiplane was so designated because the Kaiser's Luftstreitkrafte used the letter "J", followed by a Roman numeral only, to designate all armored, infantry co-operation and ground attack aircraft, which were also designed by the Albatros and AEG firms in World War I.

External links

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