Zeppelin, Ferdinand, Graf von , 1838-1917, German army officer and airship inventor and builder.
He entered the Prussian army in 1858 and served in the Seven Weeks War and in the Franco-Prussian War.
He was an observer with the Union army during the American Civil War.
In 1891 he retired from the Prussian army to devote himself to the building of motor-driven airships.
He invented the first rigid airship in 1900, and in 1906 built one that had a speed of 30 mi (48 km) per hr. I
n 1908 he established at Friederichshafen the Zeppelin Foundation for the development of aerial navigation and the manufacture of airships.
The Zeppelin was a rigid airship, cigar-shaped, trussed, and covered frame supported by internal gas cells, below which hung two external cars with an engine geared to two propellers.
The first zeppelin flew in 1900. In World War I zeppelins were used as bombers by Germany.
In 1928 the Graf Zeppelin inaugurated transatlantic flight service; it had completed 590 flights by 1937, when the Hindenburg disaster halted such flights.