August 9, 1896 - Otto Lilienthal, the aviation pioneer, took his last flight on this day. He crashed his glider and broke his spine. As he lay dying he said, "Kleine Opfer müssen gebracht werden!" (small sacrifices must be made!).
Lilienthal was the first person to successfully design, build and fly what was basically the original working hang glider. He had studied birds his whole life and along with his brother experimented extensively on various contraptions that would hopefully enable humans to fly. In 1889 he published the highly influential book, Birdflight as the Basis of Aviation.
The Wright brothers were greatly inspired by Lilienthal's work and they often mentioned him as an important trailblazer in the quest for manned flight.
Of all the men who attacked the flying problem in the 19th century, Otto Lilienthal was easily the most important. - Wilbur Wright
Starting in 1891 Lilienthal made over 2000 successful flights in his glider. On his final flight his glider lost its lift and Lilienthal plummeted about 50 feet to the ground.