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Wilbur and Orville: A Biography of the Wright Brothers

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In the waning days of the 19th century and on the eve of a new technological era, French, English, and American inventors (as well as a host of charlatans, stuntmen, and profiteers) were racing to be the first to achieve powered, heavier-than-air flight. At the center of this activity were two little-known bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio — Wilbur and Orville Wright. Thi In the waning days of the 19th century and on the eve of a new technological era, French, English, and American inventors (as well as a host of charlatans, stuntmen, and profiteers) were racing to be the first to achieve powered, heavier-than-air flight. At the center of this activity were two little-known bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio — Wilbur and Orville Wright. This highly regarded volume, considered by many to be the definitive study of the Wrights, tells the full story of the brothers' lives and works: from their early childhood and initial fascination with flight, through the years of experimentation with gliders on the sand dunes of Indiana, to the exhilarating days on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where they perfected the design for the initial flyer, culminating in the historic first flight in December, 1903, at Kitty Hawk. The book also relates in detail the bitter patent fight and exhausting legal battles that followed as well as Wilbur's untimely death and Orville's later years. Author Fred Howard, an expert on early aviation technology and member of the team that edited a multi-volume edition of the Wright brothers' papers for the Library of Congress, is uniquely qualified to tell this story. He not only provides a remarkable account of the brothers' enormous achievements, but has also captured the spirit of an extraordinary era, paying tribute to the contributions of such legendary aviation pioneers as Octave Chanute, Samuel Pierpont Langley, Glenn Curtiss, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Louis Blériot, and many others. Unparalleled in its scope and colorful depiction of the Wright brothers and their times, this authoritative and thoroughly entertaining work will thrill and delight aviation buffs, students of American history, and anyone fascinated by the early days of flight.


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In the waning days of the 19th century and on the eve of a new technological era, French, English, and American inventors (as well as a host of charlatans, stuntmen, and profiteers) were racing to be the first to achieve powered, heavier-than-air flight. At the center of this activity were two little-known bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio — Wilbur and Orville Wright. Thi In the waning days of the 19th century and on the eve of a new technological era, French, English, and American inventors (as well as a host of charlatans, stuntmen, and profiteers) were racing to be the first to achieve powered, heavier-than-air flight. At the center of this activity were two little-known bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio — Wilbur and Orville Wright. This highly regarded volume, considered by many to be the definitive study of the Wrights, tells the full story of the brothers' lives and works: from their early childhood and initial fascination with flight, through the years of experimentation with gliders on the sand dunes of Indiana, to the exhilarating days on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where they perfected the design for the initial flyer, culminating in the historic first flight in December, 1903, at Kitty Hawk. The book also relates in detail the bitter patent fight and exhausting legal battles that followed as well as Wilbur's untimely death and Orville's later years. Author Fred Howard, an expert on early aviation technology and member of the team that edited a multi-volume edition of the Wright brothers' papers for the Library of Congress, is uniquely qualified to tell this story. He not only provides a remarkable account of the brothers' enormous achievements, but has also captured the spirit of an extraordinary era, paying tribute to the contributions of such legendary aviation pioneers as Octave Chanute, Samuel Pierpont Langley, Glenn Curtiss, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Louis Blériot, and many others. Unparalleled in its scope and colorful depiction of the Wright brothers and their times, this authoritative and thoroughly entertaining work will thrill and delight aviation buffs, students of American history, and anyone fascinated by the early days of flight.

30 review for Wilbur and Orville: A Biography of the Wright Brothers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    My favorite of the three biographies I've read about the Wright brothers. Howard lays out a very detailed case to support the Wright brothers' claim that they were the first to achieve powered, sustained, controlled, level flight. Essential to this is coverage of the brothers' gliding trials prior to 1903, and the progress they made leading up to their pioneering first powered flight in Dec 1903. The brothers' meticulous documentation of that progress is the foundation of their claim that they w My favorite of the three biographies I've read about the Wright brothers. Howard lays out a very detailed case to support the Wright brothers' claim that they were the first to achieve powered, sustained, controlled, level flight. Essential to this is coverage of the brothers' gliding trials prior to 1903, and the progress they made leading up to their pioneering first powered flight in Dec 1903. The brothers' meticulous documentation of that progress is the foundation of their claim that they were first, and it is why they are recognized for that achievement. Around the time of their first flight, they were generating a lot of interest from the nation's newspapers. One of the takeaways from this coverage was how deeply flawed the press could be--how they could be governed by such laziness and lack of scholarship. One of the later highlights for me was Wilbur Wright's tour of France in 1908--culminating in his historic flight demonstrations at Le Mans--proving conclusively to European observers that the Wright brothers had achieved their monumental feat, and that they were the leaders in flight. In later years, the brothers had to build and defend their business, and protect the patents of their inventions, and that was the necessary evil they had to accept as leaders of the industry they helped create. There are a number of good biographies of the Wright brothers. This is one of the best of them.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mike Augustine

    A seemingly very thorough coverage of the Wrights and their work, but also includes much related info on others and their efforts. A minor issue with the text was it’s multiple instances of repeating information. I’m sure it was a challenge to assemble all of this information and I’m grateful to the author for this book, but could have been improved with further editing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rich532

    This book gives some flavor of the Wrights' personalities and some detail on the technical achievements. I am somewhat technical-minded, and, it's enough for me. After a century has passed, a definitive study of their personalities may not be possible. After a century of flight, the finer points of aeronautical engineering and the experience of flying are covered well elsewhere. The best, most important contribution of this book may be the discussion of other personalities and their achievements This book gives some flavor of the Wrights' personalities and some detail on the technical achievements. I am somewhat technical-minded, and, it's enough for me. After a century has passed, a definitive study of their personalities may not be possible. After a century of flight, the finer points of aeronautical engineering and the experience of flying are covered well elsewhere. The best, most important contribution of this book may be the discussion of other personalities and their achievements (or lack of) in seeking flight, as they impacted the Wrights' lives and efforts. The author is uniquely qualified to do this, and he has done it well. That may sound lukewarm, but I love the book, pick it up again & again for a lift. It's nostalgia, I suppose. What better technical achievement has man made, than to fly. And, what an amazing story; two machinists on a shoestring budget succeeded where well-financed men of high station failed again and again. And, kept it a virtual secret for several years until revealing it to an astonished world.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tom Rowe

    The good: It's an interesting story that I knew very little about. Talks a lot about other early pioneers in aviation. The bad: It goes into a lot of aeronautical details which the author explains well, but which I didn't really care about. However, it seems that these details are precisely what the Wright's lives were about, and you could not tell the story without those details. Very little of the Wright's personality comes through. The good: It's an interesting story that I knew very little about. Talks a lot about other early pioneers in aviation. The bad: It goes into a lot of aeronautical details which the author explains well, but which I didn't really care about. However, it seems that these details are precisely what the Wright's lives were about, and you could not tell the story without those details. Very little of the Wright's personality comes through.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Read this after we stopped in Dayton, Ohio, and went to a memorial there. Who knew they were from Dayton and practiced flying there?? I always thought they were from Kitty Hawk, NC. After reading this book, I know more about the Wright Bros than I ever learned at school. If you like history, this is probably a good read for you.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    Wow, a beautiful telling of the many ways that the Wright brothers used simple, clever innovations to test their hypotheses until they achieved controlled flight -- then of years of hardship trying to protect and sell their invention. Ugh! A great biography with many lessons about innovation and openness (and the lack thereof).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Missy Sheldrake

    I read this book in 2013 after a trip to Kittyhawk, NC, where the Wright Brothers made their first flight. At times it was dry, but it was a fascinating look into the process of these two men and their perseverance in becoming the inventors of aviation.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jrohde

    A very detailed account of the perseverence of these two entrepreuneurs. Includes a lot od direct quotes from diaries and observers and some good photos. I stopped after their success as the later half of the book is about trying to honor their patent - they got screwed - surprise?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    Hard to read as an audiobook, as parts were rather technical and I'd have liked the photos. But enjoyed the personal aspects a lot. It's a good portrait of the men and their family. I look forward to McCullum's new book on them. Hard to read as an audiobook, as parts were rather technical and I'd have liked the photos. But enjoyed the personal aspects a lot. It's a good portrait of the men and their family. I look forward to McCullum's new book on them.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Billy McCoy

    This book was not what I expected though it turned out to be a good choice after all!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tom Nolan

    paperback 6x9

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael Wright

  13. 4 out of 5

    MARK COOGAN

  14. 5 out of 5

    Roger Hand

  15. 5 out of 5

    Doug

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie Price

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian Piper

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mystery Theater

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jean McCreery

  20. 4 out of 5

    Doug

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Tucker

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sshelline

  23. 4 out of 5

    Reidar

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alice

  25. 5 out of 5

    donald o. demers jr

  26. 4 out of 5

    John M

  27. 5 out of 5

    Daryl C

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Cieslak

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dajobst

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael Haupt

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