Friday, June 10, 2016

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

Wilbur and Orville Wright are two men that exemplify what it means to be an American inventor. At a time where most of the world thought heavier-than-air flight was a fool's errand at best, they took their lives in their hands in order to conquer the skies. Neither had a college degree, but Wilbur was a genius and Orville was one of the best mechanical minds of his age. By close examination of birds, careful reading of the work of fellow scientists, and daredevil experimentation they were the first people that safely flew a powered aircraft.

McCullough is an excellent writer and does a great job of telling the story of the brothers lives and their quest. They kept their aircraft and experiments largely private, so even after their initial successes most of the world remained skeptical. After finally holding public demonstrations in Europe and the US proving their accomplishments, the brothers became global heroes. Ironically, their flights to show the world were some of the last they ever made. Wilbur died of typhoid fever less than five years later, and Orville spent the remainder of his life fighting patent infringements and lawsuits. Despite this less than audacious end, the brothers names and accomplishments live on today, with possibly the coolest tribute being the fact that when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, he carried a swatch of muslin from the wing of the brother's 1903 Flyer.

First Sentence:
In as strong a photograph as any taken of the brothers together, they sit side by side on the back porch steps of the Wright family home on a small side street on the west end of Dayton, Ohio.

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