The Wright Brothers
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The #1 New York Times bestseller from David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize—the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly—Wilbur and Orville Wright.
On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two brothers—bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio—changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe that the age of flight had begun, with the first powered machine carrying a pilot.
Orville and Wilbur Wright were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity. When they worked together, no problem seemed to be insurmountable. Wilbur was unquestionably a genius. Orville had such mechanical ingenuity as few had ever seen. That they had no more than a public high school education and little money never stopped them in their mission to take to the air. Nothing did, not even the self-evident reality that every time they took off, they risked being killed.
In this “enjoyable, fast-paced tale” (The Economist), master historian David McCullough “shows as never before how two Ohio boys from a remarkable family taught the world to fly” (The Washington Post) and “captures the marvel of what the Wrights accomplished” (The Wall Street Journal). He draws on the extensive Wright family papers to profile not only the brothers but their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them. Essential reading, this is “a story of timeless importance, told with uncommon empathy and fluency…about what might be the most astonishing feat mankind has ever accomplished…The Wright Brothers soars” (The New York Times Book Review).
protect their suits and ties. Everything considered, they got along well, each aware of what the other brought to the task at hand, each long familiar with the other’s particular nature, and always with the unspoken understanding that Wilbur, the older by four years, was the senior member of the partnership, the big brother. Not that things always went smoothly. They could be highly demanding and critical of each other, disagree to the point of shouting “something terrible.” At times, after an
steel tubing arrived from Charlie, only to crack during an indoor test. With no delay, Orville, the better mechanic of the two, packed his bag and on November 30 left for Dayton to see what could be done, with Wilbur remaining behind “to keep house alone,” in his words. In Washington, by the morning of December 8, the cold wind eased off, and to Charles Manly and the Smithsonian technicians working with him, conditions for another test of Samuel Langley’s much publicized, much derided aerodrome
main square, the Place de la République. Eager to get started on the reassembly of the Flyer, he began opening the crates at the Bollée factory first thing the following day and could hardly believe what he saw. At Kitty Hawk two months before, he had found the old camp a shambles. Now he was looking at the Flyer in shambles and could barely control his fury. A dozen or more ribs were broken, one wing ruined, the cloth torn in countless places. Everything was a tangled mess. Radiators were
bear to be touched. His leg was not in a cast, as she had expected, but “in a sort of cradle” held up by a rope to the ceiling, she wrote to Wilbur. “When I went in his chin quivered and the tears came to his eyes, but he soon braced up again. The shock has weakened him very much, of course.” As the day went on Orville turned extremely nervous and on edge. “I suppose the working with his leg has made him so. I bathed that side of his face that was exposed, and his chest and shoulders. That
from the start he had been joined in his aviation experiments by a younger brother, which could only have given Wilbur and Orville a feeling of something in common. He took his lessons from the birds, Lilienthal said, and he saw, as many “prominent investigators” had not, that the secret of “the art of flight” was to be found in the arched or vaulted wings of birds, by which they could ride the wind. He had no use for gas balloons as a means of flight, as they had nothing in common with the