Horatio Frederick Philips was born in 1845 in the south of London in England. He became interested in flight at a young age and, whilst in his twenties, followed developments at the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), which was established in 1866. Unimpressed with wind tunnels developed at the RAeS, Philips built his own wind tunnel, which used a steam injector to produce airflow. His device was able to produce more accurate results than any contemporary wind tunnels. Philips used it to conduct experiments with curved aerofoils, proving that curved aerofoils produced more lift than flat aerofoils, as per Bernoulli’s principle. Many inventors, including the Wright brothers, subsequently applied the principles discovered in his experiments. Philips also put his theory into practice, building an unmanned test aircraft with no less than fifty wings mounted to a fuselage. This steam-powered aircraft flew in 1893 and reached a speed of 35 knots.
In 1904, he built a manned, twenty-wing version of the multiplane, which, due to instability, was able to fly a distance of no more than 15 metres. Three years later, Philips built another manned multiplane, having learned from his mistakes. The new aircraft was powered by a 22 hp engine and had a cage structure, holding 200 wing-like aerofoils. Philips successfully flew his aircraft over a distance of 150 metres, but the flight was not considered the first official flight in Britain, as the controllability of the aircraft was questionable. Although his multiplanes never became popular, Philips made his mark in history as a pioneer of aeronautical engineering.