Friday, October 24, 2008

The Wright Brothers

The Wright brothers (Orville, 1871–1948 and Wilbur, 1867–1912) stand out as innovators and businessmen who tirelessly worked to achieve powered human flight. 

Starting out as bicycle sales and repairmen, the brothers would quickly master the design and construction of bicycles, leading to the Wright Cycle Company that manufactured their own models. While the operated this successful business, they became interested in the problem of flight, which many other gliding enthusiasts and inventors.

Among the many improvements that Orville and Wilbur made to the then-current theory of flight, they developed two radical breakthroughs that finally enabled them to achieve powered flight. The first was a long-standing belief that they had about dynamic control during flight. The brothers adapted their knowledge of bicycles and their observations of birds to flight and realized that flying through the air required three axes of control. The second major breakthrough was their invention of a better wing profile, which they achieved through rigorous testing in a wind tunnel that they designed and built themselves.

By achieving flight in 1903 and quickly improving on their original design, the Wrights eventually demonstrated their invention to the world, leading to the birth of the aviation industry. From overnight packages to cheap intercontinental flight, the contribution of the Wright Brothers is vital to our standard of living and they should be remembered and thanked for their diligent work.

James Tobin, To Conquer the Air
Smithsonian exhibit
Kitty Hawk national memorial
Wright tribute site
PBS NOVA website
Time 100 profile
Wikipedia profile

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