British aeronautical engineer, founder of Sopwith Aviation. He was knighted in 1953. The son of a wealthy civil engineer, Sopwith had an introduction to aviation that has become legendary. In 1910 he purchased for £630 a Howard-Wright biplane, assembled it, flew it without any training, and immediately crashed it. A little later he purchased a second kit, assembled it, flew it, and gained his pilot's licence – all on the same day. In the same year he won the Baron de Forest prize of £4000 for a long-distance flight of 169 miles. In 1912 Sopwith founded Sopwith Aviation Company at Kingston-on-Thames. During World War I he produced several successful planes, including the Sopwith Scout, Pup, and Camel. The Camel, with 2790 ‘kills’ to its credit, was the most destructive fighter of the war. After the disappearance of his company in 1920, Sopwith remained in aviation, becoming chairman of Hawker-Siddeley in 1935, an office he held until 1963. During this period he was responsible for the production of the Lancaster bombers and Hurricane fighters of World War II. He also built the Gloster, which was modified to test Frank Whittle's newly designed jet engine in 1941.
From Who's Who in the Twentieth Century in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).