Incentivized Competition Heritage

1700s: Breakthroughs In Navigation

The Longitude Act of 1714 was a series of large cash prizes created by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to determine time with the precision required for ocean navigation. The discovery of how to measure longitude accurately was among the important discoveries of the 1600's and 1700's.

1800s: Breakthroughs In Chemical Engineering

In the 18th century an engineering prize of 100,000 francs was offered by the French Academy for the production of soda from seawater. Nicholas Leblanc's resulting process became the basis of the modern chemical industry and is considered one of the key chemical engineering inventions of all time.

1900s: Breakthroughs In Aviation

In 1919, the $25,000 Orteig Prize for the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris was won with spectacular results. Between 1905 and 1935, hundreds of aviation prizes stimulated the advancement of aircraft technology.

One of the best-known prizes was the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 purse offered by hotel magnate Raymond Orteig to the first person to fly non-stop between New York and Paris. In 1927, with the whole world watching, Charles Lindbergh won the prize and became a global celebrity.

Where no government filled the need and no immediate profit could pay the bill, the Orteig Prize stimulated not one, but nine different attempts to cross the Atlantic. These nine teams cumulatively spent $400,000 to win the $25,000 purse - and spawned today's $250 billion aviation industry.

By taking a smaller, faster approach to aviation, Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis Organization showed that a small professional team could outperform large, government-style efforts. Prior to his flight, the press of the day characterized him as a daredevil and an amateur - "the flying fool." But Lindbergh's meticulously planned single-engine/single-pilot strategy was a radical departure from the conventional thinking of the day, and his innovative thinking and careful preparation won the full support of the Spirit of St. Louis Organization.

A quarter of all Americans personally saw Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis within a year of his flight - and the world changed with their excitement:

  • Applications for pilot's licenses in the U.S. increased by 300% in 1927
  • The number of licensed aircraft in the U.S. increased by 400% in 1927
  • Most notably, U.S. Airline passengers increased from 5,782 in 1926 to 173,405 in 1929 - a 30-fold increase!
  • The cause of the tremendous growth in aviation experienced after 1927 was not due to a technology breakthrough. Lindbergh employed technology that was available years earlier. The growth was a direct result of a monumental change in the public's expectation about flight. Lindbergh's flight created the expectation that anyone could fly.

    The X PRIZE Foundation was founded to stimulate a similar change in the public's expectation of privatized space flight and now exists to create dynamic shifts in the public's perception of future X PRIZE areas, including Exploration; Energy & Environment; Learning; Global Development; and Life Sciences.

    Sign up today to receive the X PRIZE Newsletter and occasional alerts

    * Required
    What Fields Are You Interested In?
    Email Format