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The Wright Brothers by David G. McCullough
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The Wright Brothers (original 2015; edition 2015)

by David G. McCullough

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1,242756,389 (4.19)79
Member:jjmcgaffey
Title:The Wright Brothers
Authors:David G. McCullough
Info:New York : Simon & Schuster, 2015.
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned, Read this year, Discarded, Working on
Rating:***1/2
Tags:!Sale:YS, Biography, History, __scanned

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The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (2015)

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Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
Fast Paced and engaging. Very enjoyable telling of the Wright Brothers story. You are left amazed at the tenacity and intelligence of the brothers. ( )
  KenMcLain | Jul 18, 2017 |
Interesting. I knew the legend, of course - the flight at Kitty Hawk. There's a lot more to the story - the attempts and setbacks, the challenges and insults the brothers encountered along the way - and then the lauds and acclaim they got when they could successfully fly at last. The interactions between the brothers, and their sister Katherine and father Bishop, are interesting in themselves. The first half of the book is the run-up to flight - their initial attempts, the several years at Kitty Hawk, then taking what they learned there and applying it nearer home, on flights that didn't have the wind or a track to help start them off. One small thing that bothered me - early on, McCullough gives the prices of a couple things, and I think it was the actual money spent on it. But 50 cents in the early 1900s was a lot of money - a day's wage for a worker, I think. That little toy wasn't cheap, if it cost that much. Similarly, their house cost $8000 - a lot of money then, incredibly cheap for a house now. Both references would have been better explicitly compared to costs these days, or skipped over completely.
The second half is about the reactions when people began to accept that they had actually made a useful powered flying machine - Wilbur spent a year in France doing demonstrations, Orville spent the same year working at home and then flying near Washington DC, to get their airplane accepted by the U.S. military. I had never heard about the various significant crashes the brothers endured, including one that left Orville limping and weak for more than a year (and killed his passenger). Nor had I heard about the rivalries with Secretary Langley of the Smithsonian, and with Alexander Graham Bell. The end is a little limp - they stopped flying and started defending their patents, and then Wilbur died of typhoid. Orville lived a long time - through jets and rockets, McCullough points out - but, at least in this book, achieved nothing significant after the airplane. McCullough is completely enamored of their work ethic - many, many mentions in the first part of the book - but after the airplane was accepted neither brother seems to have kept working with the same sort of drive. Still, fascinating - it expanded my limited knowledge enormously. I don't think I'll want to reread, but I'm very glad I read it. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Jul 6, 2017 |
If you want to know how little you know about the Wright Brothers, this is the book to read. I found it fascinating about how much more flying both in the US and in Europe that the brothers did, as well as their close relationship with their spinster sister and their father as well as two other brothers. ( )
  brangwinn | May 14, 2017 |
This book was recommended to me by the CEO of the company I work for (big global company, this guy is like a celebrity). Since our business is all about innovation and entrepreneurship, he was very impressed and told us: "This book describes the critical years when the era of flight was born. It talks about the business risk and the personal risk required to launch a new idea. There are also some good observations on business models as well".

I totally agree with him (and not only because he is my boss).



This book explains the determination required to accomplish big things in life. And unless you have that innovative brain and science to back it up, determination will not get you far either (unless you are a zombie- then determination will get you lots of meat)



But this family might be the most boring innovative family ever lived. My goodness, even when they are flying 100 feet up in the air, it is as exciting as eating popcorn (minus a good movie).

Some interesting things to consider:

- Some might blame the boring nature of the brothers to their pastor father. But, I found him intriguing: religious, but keeps books written by atheist scientists in his home, honest (even if this honesty costs him his job and reputation, very supportive of his sons' scientific ways and even when they stop coming to the church.
- They lost their mom early- but she seems to have the innovative scientist genes: Creating toys for them out of raw materials and such.
- 3 years high school for Orville and 4 years for Wilbur are all they had. Education kills minds?- another discussion.
- Orville was more of a mechanical engineer and Wilbur was a business man. This combination helped them very much.
- Bonus help: I was really excited to find out the writer narrated the book at first. But my dreams crashed when I couldn't understand him very well. I would read the book instead of listening it. This way you won't miss the pictures either. ( )
  soontobefree | May 1, 2017 |
A thorough, well-researched biography of Wilbur and Orville Wright and their successful design, development, and flight of the world's first airplane.

As biographies go, it's not, I suppose, the world's most exciting. There are no juicy scandals in the brothers' backgrounds, and, with the possible exception of one particularly bad crash in which a passenger was killed, no thrilling twists and turns in the story of their lives. This is just the story of two smart, decent, industrious guys who developed an interest in something, worked very, very, very hard at it, succeeded, and were then properly appreciated for their accomplishments. But there's something pleasant in that, anyway, and the details are interesting. I especially appreciated McCullough's ability to talk about the science and engineering of the Wrights' airplanes without being either too vague or too technical.

What I found really fascinating about this bit of history, though, is something that McCullough only very briefly alludes to in the epilogue, and that's how astonishingly quickly this invention changed the world, including the fact that a little more than a decade after the brothers' first flight, planes were already being used in war. The entire time I was reading this, I kept thinking about a fact I once saw pointed out somewhere and have never forgotten since: only 66 years elapsed between that first flight at Kitty Hawk and Apollo 11's landing on the moon. Sixty-six years. A short enough time that there were surely plenty of people who experienced both in their adult lives. And for me, that historical perspective casts a real sense of awe over this whole account. ( )
2 vote bragan | Apr 29, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
David McCullough is interested in only one thing, namely how it was possible that two autodidacts from Ohio managed to satisfy a longing that the species had harbored for centuries. “The Wright Brothers” is merely this: a story, well told, about what might be the most astonishing feat mankind has ever accomplished. As the comic Louis C.K. has said, reprovingly, to those who complain about the inconveniences and insults of modern air travel: “You’re sitting. In a chair. In the SKY!!” Which is saying a lot. On its own terms, “The Wright Brothers” soars.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, Daniel Okrent (May 4, 2015)
 
This concise, exciting and fact-packed book sees the easy segue between bicycling and aerial locomotion, which at that point was mostly a topic for bird fanciers and dreamers.
added by rakerman | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (pay site) (May 3, 2015)
 
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Epigraph
No bird soars in a calm.  Wilber Wright
Dedication
For Rosalee
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Prologue
From ancient times and into the Middle Ages, man has dreamed of taking to the sky, of soaring into the blue like the birds.
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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