Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager (born February 13, 1923) is a retired major general in the United States Air Force and noted test pilot. He was the first pilot to successfully travel faster than the speed of sound.
His career began in World War II as a private in the United States Army Air Forces. After serving as an aircraft mechanic, in September 1942 he entered enlisted pilot training and went on to become a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot. After the war he became a test pilot of many kinds of aircraft and rocket planes.
Yeager was the first man to break the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 45,000 feet. Although Scott Crossfield was the first man to fly faster than Mach 2 in 1953, Yeager shortly thereafter set a new record of Mach 2.44.
Yeager's popularity "soared" in the 1980s, when he was prominently featured in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff and its 1983 movie adaptation, in which he was portrayed by actor Sam Shepard.
Source: Wikipedia, "Chuck Yeager", available under the CC-BY-SA License.