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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 11:19 GMT
Brazil's 'father of flight'
Steve Kingstone
By Steve Kingstone
In Rio de Janeiro

Santos Dumont
Santos Dumont is cherished as one of the greatest Brazilians of all time
In a military museum in Rio de Janeiro, excited schoolchildren gather round a display case. Inside it is a golden sphere, the size of a football. Inside the sphere is a human heart. It belongs to the man Brazilians call the "Father of Flight", Alberto Santos Dumont.

"He was a good man," explains 10-year-old Bruna. "He invented lots of things. Like the aeroplane."

"His first plane was called 14-bis," adds eight-year-old Ruiama. "It was like a bird. And he stood in a basket to fly it."

The flamboyant son of a coffee baron, Santos Dumont made his name in France. At first, he flew balloons and airships - winning a prize in 1901 for circling the Eiffel Tower.

Children being shown round the museum
Children learn about Santos Dumont's achievements
In October 1906 he flew 14-bis before a crowd of journalists and aviation officials. The flight of 60 metres prompted newspapers to declare that the tiny Brazilian had "conquered the skies". The International Aeronautics Federation listed Santos Dumont as the first holder of an aviation record.

"When the people saw Santos Dumont fly they were astonished," says Rodrigo Moura, an author and student of Brazilian inventors. "Never before had they seen a machine that was heavier