British aeronautical engineer, aviator, and inventor of the jet engine. Whittle was born in Earlsdon, Coventry, England, at a time when powered flight was still in it's infancy. He was educated at Leamington College and the University of Cambridge. In 1926 he entered the Royal Air Force College in Cranwell as a flight cadet. While attending the college, Whittle became interested in jet propulsion for aircraft; by 1930 he had developed the concept of a turbojet engine and filed his first patent. In 1936 he organized a privately financed company, Power Jets, Ltd., for the development of his engine.
In April 1937 the first engine was tested. According to Whittle himself it, "Made a noise like an air raid siren" Subsequently, the Gloster Aircraft Company was asked to build an experimental aircraft. The result was the Gloster E.28/39, which, powered by the Whittle jet engine, took off from Cranwell on 15 May 1941.
By now it had become clear that Great Britain needed a jet fighter, and by the time of the Battle of Britain in 1940, work had already begun on a jet that would fly 200mph faster than the RAF's Spitfires and Hurricanes. Known as the Gloster Meteor, this became the RAF's first jet fighter, entering squadron services towards the end of the Second World War.
Knighted in 1948, Whittle received many other honors, including the U.S. Legion of Merit in 1946 and the Churchill Gold Medal of the Society of Engineers in 1952.