S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Raison, Mr Alfred Louis (aeronautical engineering)

Born: 2 March 1883, Les Essarts, Vendee, France.
Died: 26 October 1964, Mookgophong District, Limpopo, South Africa.

Alfred Louis Raison, mechanical engineer, was the son of Pierre Raison and his wife Louise. He came to South Africa to fight in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) on the Boer side, and remained in this country for the rest of his life. After the war he owned a bicycle repair business in Zeerust. There, in 1910, he skilfully repaired the Ford automobile belonging to Mr Cecil J.V. Bredell, a prominent timber merchant of Johannesburg, which had broken down in the town. At this time he was a qualified mechanical engineer. That same year he moved to Johannesburg to work as foreman at R. and T. Burgess, Motor Engineers. Soon thereafter Bredell commissioned him to build an aeroplane that would be powered by a British JAP V aeroplane engine that Bredell had already obtained. Raison was guided in this enterprise by instructions received from his brother, who worked as a designer at the Louis Bleriot aircraft factory in France. He designed and manufactured all the necessary parts and made a propeller of walnut, and within three months produced a Bleriot type single-decker aeroplane, based on the design that Bleriot used to fly across the English Channel, but that was substantially lighter than the original, with a wingspan of nine metres. Bredell undertook the first successful flight in this plane at Highlands North, Johannesburg, on 30 April 1911, though he was in the air for a distance of only some 40 metres at a time. The plane was later flown by M.L. Webster, but it is not known what became of it. Raison is recognised as the first person to build a successful local powered aeroplane, but made no further contributions to aeronautical engineering.

Raison and a friend later established an engineering firm, Raison and Massi, at Booysens, Johannesburg. After his retirement he settled on the farm Buffelskloof in the Naboomspruit (now Mookgophong) district in Limpopo. He was married to Beatrice Isabel, born Hargreaves Smith, with whom he had two sons.

List of sources:

National Archives Repository (TAB), Source MHG, Vol. 0, Ref. 9914/64: Death certificate, death notice, last will and testament of Alfred Louis Raison.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS), at http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Alfred Louis Raison.

Oberholzer, H. Pioneers of early aviation in South Africa. Memoirs van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein, 1974, Vol. 7, pp. 1-166 (reprinted, 1981).

South African Power Flying Association, at http://www.sapfa.org.za/history/1910-1920-early-flying-south-africa

Tidy, D.P. They mounted up as eagles. Military History Journal, 1982, Vol. 5(6). At http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol056dt.html

Compiled by: C. Plug