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Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. (24 December 1905 5 April 1976) was an American aviator, industrialist, film producer/director, philanthropist, and one of the wealthiest people in the world. He is famous for setting multiple world air-speed records, building the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 "Spruce Goose" aircraft, producing the movies Hell's Angels, Scarface and The Outlaw, as well as owning and expanding Trans World Airlines. Hughes remains an iconic figure of the 20th century, not only for his professional accomplishments, but for his debilitating eccentric behaviour in later life. Despite his well-known bouts with obsessive-compulsive disorder and reclusiveness, Hughes is believed by many to be one of the most brilliant minds that America has produced and still to this day is one of the most successful American aviators.

Howard Hughes is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal (presented 7 August 1939).

The Hughes birthplace is disputed in various sources as both Humble, Texas and Houston, Texas are given. He also claimed his birthday was Christmas Eve, although some biographers debate his exact birth date, (according to NNDB.com, it was most likely "the more mundane date of September 24"; NNDB in turn refers to his baptismal records, but do not provide them for verification). His parents were Allene Stone Gano Hughes (a descendant of Catherine of Valois, Dowager Queen of England, by second husband Owen Tudor)and Howard R. Hughes, Sr., who patented the two-cone roller bit, which allowed rotary drilling for oil in previously inaccessible places. Howard R. Hughes, Sr., founded Hughes Tool Company in 1909 to commercialise this invention.

Hughes grew up under the strong influence of his mother, who was obsessed with protecting her son from all germs and diseases. From his father, Hughes inherited an interest in all things mechanical. Showing great aptitude in engineering at an early age, Hughes erected Houston's first wireless broadcast system when he was 11 years old. At the age of 12, Hughes was supposedly photographed in the local newspaper as being the first boy in Houston to have a 'motorized' bicycle, which he had built himself from parts taken from his father's steam engine. He was an indifferent student with a liking for mathematics and flying, taking flying lessons at 14 and later auditing math and engineering courses at Caltech.