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The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
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The Wright Brothers (2015)

by David McCullough

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Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
One of the most amazing things about the Wright Brothers was that, though not twins, they seemed to share their genius equally. As David McCullough tells their story in his 2015 book “The Wright Brothers,” they were dependent upon each other, yet virtually interchangeable in researching the science of flight (most of what others had written on the subject proved useless to them), building the first self-powered airplane and then actually flying it. Each could do what the other did just as well, and although they had their arguments, they most often were of the same mind and never displayed a hint of jealously about the other, even when Orville had to stay behind to recover from injuries in a crash while Wilbur won wide international acclaim during a long visit to France.

Genius is the correct word. There was no luck involved, no dependence upon the work of others as some claimed at the time. While those others were building planes that couldn't fly, sometimes killing themselves in the process, the Wright Brothers carefully researched how flight might be possible. How did birds fly? How did kites work? How did gliders work? How might a heavier-than-air craft be powered? How might it be made to turn and then land safely? Using gliders and a wind tunnel, then finding a place, Kitty Hawk, where the winds were favorable and the sand insured a safe landing, the brothers did the research before they put their lives on the line.

While other would-be aviators invited crowds to observe their disastrous flights, the Wrights worked with few witnesses. Even when they were successful and would have appreciated a little press attention, newspaper editors scoffed and ignored them. Some were insisting human flight was impossible even after the Wright Brothers proved otherwise. Not until Wilbur took their plane to Europe and wowed nobility and peasants alike did the American press and the United States government start paying attention. And this was more than two years after that first flight at Kitty Hawk.

After that the brothers spent more time in lawyers' offices than in the air. In 12 lawsuits against those who stole their ideas and claimed them as their own, they won them all. Even then it was others who most profited from the invention of powered flight.

McCullough tells this story with his usual style that presents potentially difficult subject matter in a manner any reader can understand. He also widens the scope of the Wright genius to include not just the brothers but also their sister Katherine, the only Wright sibling with a college degree, whose support and ability at public relations aided their effort. Also, often ignored, there was Charlie Taylor, a mechanical whiz who was first hired to mind the bicycle shop while the brothers were away playing with airplanes but who soon became indispensable for his skill at building and repairing engines. ( )
1 vote hardlyhardy | Aug 3, 2018 |
As always, McCullough knows how to weave just enough historical details into whatever biography he's telling- providing context for the timeperiod and emphasizing the person's place in it. The Wright brothers were a fascinating pair - and so thoroughly "American" - truly archetypes for the turn of the twentieth century. Loved reading the incredible efforts and persistence they took to achieve successful, man-piloted flight. An inspiring read with just enough psychological insight backed with first person accounts and personal details to make it even more engaging. ( )
1 vote BDartnall | Aug 2, 2018 |
McCullough is brilliant, as always. I feel like I got to know the whole family through reading this book. Love those down-to-earth Midwestern men! ( )
  CSKteach | Jul 20, 2018 |
fascinating, beautifully written and researched. ( )
  DanDiercks | Jun 18, 2018 |
"The Wright Brothers" never took flight for me. I'm sure a lot of it had to do with the fact that I picked up the tome largely out of guilt because I know so little about this chapter in history. My lifelong respect for McCullough trumped the fact that I actually have little interest in aviation. Some of the reviewers that use words such as "bland" and "dull" to describe this work are being kind. I found it so tedious that I gave up about one-third into the work. Even though my exposure to this saga was cut short, it gave me some insights into the the backgrounds and psyches of a family that played a pivotal role in our heritage. ( )
  brianinbuffalo | Jun 14, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 85 (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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"As he did so brilliantly in THE GREAT BRIDGE and THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS, David McCullough once again tells a dramatic story of people and technology, this time about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly, Wilbur and Orville Wright"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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