The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Find in catalogWow! This is an amazing and quite detailed accounting of the two brothers, Orville and Wilbur, who dedicated many decades of their lives to creating a ‘flying machine’. It was an obsession with many around the world, notably in France, Germany, England, and other places. The brothers were raised by a minister and his wife, who were remarkably encouraging of their natural curiosities…..for instance, they lived in a book-filled home, and if they felt like staying home from school to pursue something more interesting to them, some project, or other pursuit, they had their father’s blessing on that. The brothers kept each other going with ideas and patience, true grit, alternate abilities, etc., which probably had much to do with their being the first to successfully fly.

I did not know they started out with a hang-glider type of apparatus over the sand dunes in North Carolina; and their machinist friend had to actually invent tools and a motor for an airplane, of course, since they did not exist yet! (Remember, they had no safety helmets, either, as they had not been invented yet, either!) The amazement goes on and on…including the fact that the US government and War Department ignored and refused to meet with them for many, many years….so they were forced, as it were, to seek interest in France. It was in Le Mans where after 5 full years of flying (and able to fly for hours and miles) that they were finally able to draw crowds and press corps and enough attention to obtain the recognition that amongst all the others’ failed flying machines, they actually had a real one! The U.S. really failed on this one. This is a remarkable family story (the adult unmarried daughter stays home and cooks for the widowed father as the 2 men are off for months doing experiments and developing their machine), and it shows how a small group can succeed where it might be nearly impossible for those trying to go it alone. Amazing story, readable if one likes lots of detail. David McCullough kept it interesting for me, in a ‘human interest’ way rather than a ‘technical’ way.



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