The Origins of the Dornier Family
The French Orignins in the Doubs Region
The name Dornier can be traced back to the 13th Century in Franche-Compte, a formerly independent region in eastern France. The name Dornier describes a profession, that of a merchant of potteries. The Dornier Family can trace back its direct ancestors to the small village of Arcon in Rohne-Alpes, a few kilometers from the Swiss border.
Moving to Savoie and then to Germany
Claude Honore Dornier (left), born in 1819, was a Forester in Arcon and later was transferred to the poor village of Corracon.
His son Dauphin Dornier (right), born in 1845 went to the Bavairan (Germany) City of Kempten to work as a French teacher. He returned to France a few years later to fight for France in the Franco-Prussian war. After the war he became an Editor in Blois, but love made Dauphin go back to Germany, where he married Maximiliane Buck. They ran a successful paper mill until a fire destroyed the factory and Maximiliane died of flu leaving Dauphin behind with three daughters. Three years later, he married Maximiliane's younger sister Mathilde. Claude Dornier was the eldest of the four children out of this marriage.
Claude Dornier - Aviation Pioneer (Wikipedia)
Claude (Claudius) Honoré Desiré Dornier born in Kempten im Allgäu (May 14, 1884 - December 5, 1969) was a German airplane builder and founder of Dornier GmbH. His legacy remains in the sevaral aircraft named after him, including the Dornier Do 18 and the 12-engine Dornier Do X flying boat, for decades the world's largest and most powerful airplane.
The son of a French wine importer and his German wife, Claude Dornier was born in Bavaria where he grew up and attended school, with science being his chief interest. Dornier then moved to Munich, where he graduated in 1907 from the Technical University.
As a young engineer Dornier first worked on strength calculations at Nagel Engineering Works in Karlsruhe. In 1910, he joined Luftschiffbau Zeppelin in Friedrichshafen on the Bodensee, where his advanced abilities quickly attracted Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin's attention. Soon appointed as the Count's personal scientific advisor, Dornier began fundamental research and design on improving the strength of light metal sections and later on aircraft engineering and giant metal flying boats.
Dornier is also recognised in the history of German aviation for his unique concepts in multiple aircraft engine installations. His planes often featured double ended props on the front and the back of the planes in a push-pull configuration.
A Pioneering Flight from Zurich to Cape Town in 1926
On 7 December 1926 the Swiss aviation Pioneer Water Mittelholzer embarked on a flight that would take him from Switzerland across the African continent to Cape Town in 77 days. It was the first crossing of Africa in a seaplane ever and became a landmark in Swiss aviation. But this flight was not about breaking another record. It was about adding the the very poor geographical and general knowledge western societies had about Africa and about promoting air travel.
Dornier-Werke Friedrichshafen and the Bayerische Motoren Werke in Munich were the main sponsors, but Mittelholzer could not count on the support by the colonial authorities. The Dornier Merkur "Switzerland" reconfigurated as seaplane granted him independence from airfields. He carefully planned his journey along the Nile, lakes and the open sea.
Mittelholzer, who was a photographer before he became pilot, had the latest photographic and filming equipment on board, including large-format cameras and special equipment for mapping shots, as well as a fully equipped darkroom.
The trip proved to be challenging. Equipped with a inaccurate maps with a scale of 1:1 000 000 and without any infrastructure along the route, most of the 23 laps were very much into unchartered areas. Especially when it comes to flying. But the Dornier Merkur with its BMW engine proved to be very reliable and the expedition arrived safely in Cape Town on the 21 February 1927.
Mittelholzer leaves us with a unique collection of photographs and films of the time.
The original propeller of the Dornier Merkur is exhibited in the international departure hall of the Cape Town airport.
Christoph Dornier - Painter - Founder of Dornier Wines
Born into a family of engineers, Christoph Dornier knew from an early age that he was different. Art was his first love and against the will of his father, he persisted and became a recognized artist. But even within his chosen field he never followed the trends. He had his very own ways to see things and to paint them. Christoph Dornier was often ahead of his time: he started a foundation for behavioral psychotherapy in Germany in the eighties that has had a deep impact on the treatments with its research and treatment concepts. He was also one of the founding partners of de Zalze Golf Estate in Stellenbosch that has become the prime residential location in the area. His independent mind made him move to Stellenbosch in the turbulent nineties and start Dornier Wines as one of the very early foreign investors. He loved the mystical aspect to wine, its symbolism and beauty. For 14 years he worked on the vision, supported by his children.
Christoph Dornier had a life-long passion for architecture and the landmark Dornier wine cellar is his legacy in this field. The young generation has already taken over the business, supported by a strong team around winemaker Philip van Staden.