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

by David McCullough (Author)

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2,7121214,438 (4.2)125
On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot. Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did? Far more than a couple of unschooled Dayton bicycle mechanics who happened to hit on success, they were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity, much of which they attributed to their upbringing. The house they lived in had no electricity or indoor plumbing, but there were books aplenty, supplied mainly by their preacher father, and they never stopped reading. 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, little money and no contacts in high places, 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 in one of their contrivances, they risked being killed. Historian David McCullough draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including private diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence to tell the human side of the Wright Brothers' story, including the little-known contributions of their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them.… (more)
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Title:The Wright Brothers
Authors:David McCullough (Author)
Info:Simon & Schuster Audio (2015)
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The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (2015)

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Showing 1-5 of 119 (next | show all)
David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers is a fascinating biography. It tells the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio and how they were able to fly. They were the owners of Wright Bicycle Company that were used to finance their endeavors. Their initial attempts with gliders led them to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina where they were first successful. Their first flight was on December 17, 1903 when the Wright Flyer took off with Orville at the controls.
After a number of experiments the Wrights returned to Ohio to work on developing a practical airplane. They continued tests at Huffman Prairie where on September 29, 1905 Orville flew 12 miles in 20 minutes. Wilbur flew 24 miles in 39 minutes. During these rather demanding times Wilbur and Orville were eagerly supported by their father, Bishop Milton Wright, and their sister Katharine.
Initially, they made attempts to interest the war department in their experiments but to no avail. But foreign nations notably France and Germany were eager to have them demonstrate their invention. This led Wilbur to visit France where he flew their plane at Le Mans on August 8, 1908. Flights were later made at Pau, in Germany, and Rome before thousands of adoring spectators.
While in Europe, the war department began to show an interest in the Wright’s plane with all the positive news in the national and international press. Orrville therefore was able to do successful demonstrations at Fort Myer, Virginia on September 17, 1908. In one of these demonstrations Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge, who was a passenger with Orville was killed in the plane crash. Orville was badly injured, and took several months to recover.
Flights resumed on Governors Island in New York. Wilbur flew up the Hudson River, and caused a sensation by circling the Statute of Liberty, symbol of the friendship of France and of welcome to America. The Wrights later years were taken up with lawsuits over patent rights that worn out Wilbur, who died of typhoid fever on May 30, 1912. Orville carried on the Wright business ventures with further research. He died of a heart attack on January 30, 1948,
Numerous Wright monuments were erected, one dedicated to Wilbur at Le Mans. The largest Wright memorial is at Kitty Hawk at Kill Devil Hills. There is also a memorial on Wright Brothers Hill overlooking Huffman Prairie, and an aircraft carrier, USS Wright bears their name. ( )
  erwinkennythomas | Jul 15, 2022 |
Great. Chock full of stories. Just the right mix of anecdote, plus narrative moving story along. Not a biography reader, but this pair (The Wrights) warrants an exception. ( )
  apende | Jul 12, 2022 |
Very good historical novel. I learned so much about their 1st flights and numerous legal issues. The history of flight explained and how it grew. ( )
  wincheryl | Jun 20, 2022 |
The Wright Brothers is the third book I’ve completed by David McCullough. It’s also my favorite. I enjoyed John Adams and 1776, but The Wright Brothers helped me understand what was so compelling about Wilbur and Orville Wright.

McCullough does a wonderful job telling their stories and capturing their personalities. He conveys what motivated them and what was most important to them with their family of origin being near the top. Both men were products of their time and place. The world was ready for the first airplane and the brothers had the resources and the freedom to study and experiment until it was created.

The events caused me to wonder about fate and destiny. The two brothers’ lives, characters, and interests dovetailed and formed the perfect ingredients required to conquer the long-sought goal of mechanical flight. Both men were highly intelligent, had minds for engineering (even without college degrees), and had solid business instincts that helped them crack the requirements for human flight and spread the word and profit from their efforts.

Of course, there is a dark side to humans conquering the air, and McCullough hints at what’s to come, alluding to H. G. Wells's prediction of death falling from the sky in the form of bombs. Wells was writing at the same time the Wrights first took to the skies in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Most books generally have something I wish was different. But with this one, it’s hard to find fault. The pacing, the stories, and the characters are all superb. If I can enjoy a book about engineering, anyone can. ( )
  Library_Lin | Apr 21, 2022 |
I couldn't warm up to this book, because from the beginning the author was too enamored of his subject. The Wright's early years were described in a sentimental tone and sometimes accompanies with unnecessary details like who had which room in the house. Almost a third of the book is occupied with all the awards, parades and celebrations in their honor, the celebrities they met etc. There was just not enough substance. ( )
  Marietje.Halbertsma | Jan 9, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 119 (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
First words
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot. Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did? Far more than a couple of unschooled Dayton bicycle mechanics who happened to hit on success, they were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity, much of which they attributed to their upbringing. The house they lived in had no electricity or indoor plumbing, but there were books aplenty, supplied mainly by their preacher father, and they never stopped reading. 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, little money and no contacts in high places, 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 in one of their contrivances, they risked being killed. Historian David McCullough draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including private diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence to tell the human side of the Wright Brothers' story, including the little-known contributions of their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them.

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