The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Popular and award-winning historical writer David McCullough has done it again with his account of the Wright Brothers’ success in developing a flying machine. The new bestseller, The Wright Brothers, concentrates on the brothers’ lives leading up to their historic 1903 flight at Kitty Hawk and the decade after that event with an emphasis on the relationship of Wilbur, Orville and their sister Katharine. This is a good book for anyone interested in history, aviation, or the entrepreneurial spirit. Wilbur, Orville, their two older brothers, and younger sister Katharine were born into a family that valued reading, intellectual curiosity, and hard work. Although neither Wilbur nor Orville had a college degree (only Katharine did), both were innovative geniuses who were able to understand physics and engineering principles. I was surprised to learn that the brothers were so well read. Wilbur, Orville, and Katharine continued to live at home in Dayton with their clergyman father during this time. Wilbur and Orville financed their flight experiments at Huffman Prairie near Dayton and at Kitty Hawk with their own money from their bicycle shop. Within a couple of years of the historic brief flight of 1903, the brothers had improved the design of their original Flyer and were able to fly for miles and with controlled landings. They not only built a practical airplane but taught themselves how to be pilots. Although no new surprising or contentious facts are uncovered, this is an enjoyable account on the early development of aviation and a fascinating look at the relationship of Wilbur, Orville, and Katharine.

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