Gabriel Voisin (February 5, 1880 – December 25, 1973) was a French aviation pioneer.
He was born at Belleville-sur-Saône, France, and his brother Charles, two years younger than he, was his best friend. When his father abandoned the family, his mother, Amélie, took her sons home to Neuville-sur-Saône, where they settled near her father's factory.
Their grandfather, Charles Forestier, took charge of the boys' education with military rigor. The boys also went for expeditions along the river, went fishing, and built numerous contraptions. When his grandfather died, Gabriel was sent to school in Lyon. However, he often returned home, and by the end of the century, the brothers had built, among other things, a rifle, a steam boat, a glider, and an automobile.
In 1900, Gabriel was hired as a designer for the Universal Exposition in Paris. There, he met Clément Ader, who fueled his interest in aeronautics.
In June of 1905, Gabriel Voisin tested a glider by having it towed by a fast boat down the Seine. The glider's wing configuration was made up of Hargrave cells, a box-kite-like structure that allowed for great lift and structural strength with minimal weight. Voisin was towed into the air and flew for over 500 feet as the boat pulled him and his aircraft. When the glider went down, Voisin became entangles in the plane's wiring and nearly drowned.
In 1906, he and Charles formed the first aviation firm in the world, Les Frères Voisin.
In 1909, Gabriel became the youngest knight of the French Legion of Honor at 29. By that time, he was considered a true industrialist.
In 1910 Gabriel and Charles Voisin developed the Canard Voisin. Original in design, with its main wings positioned at the back, the Canard Voisin was a very popular aircraft during the first decades of the 20th century. With the addition of floats, it also became the first seaplane of the French Navy. The Canard Voisin expanded on a design previously experimented by Alberto Santos-Dumont with his 14-bis airplane, in which the main wings were placed at the aft of the aircraft in order to facilitate horizontal control and stability at landing. At the front, a small horizontal stabilizer was installed. The plane, named "Canard" because of its aft-heavy shape, was successfully tested by Maurice Colliex at Issy-les-Moulinaux between March and May 1910. The Canard was equipped with a 60HP Anzani radial engine (among others). The first military seaplanes were developed by Voisin in 1910, by attaching floats to the wheels of their Canard Voisin.
He married Adrienne Lola in 1909, and they had one daughter, Janine, who was the joy of his life. He was greatly affected by the death of his brother in 1912 in an automobile accident.
After World War I, he abandoned aviation, partly because of the trauma of the military use of his planes during the war. From then until 1960, he concentrated his efforts on making automobiles. His early cars were some of the finest luxury vehicles in the world, with unique technical details. Many of them won in competition. After 1945, he turned his attention to designing a minimalist car for the masses, the Biscooter, thousands of which were produced under licence in Spain during the 1950s as the Biscuter.
In 1960, he retired to Tournus, where he wrote his memoires. In 1965, he was made a commander of the Legion of Honor.