The Wright Stuff

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The Wright Stuff

Orville and Wilbur Wright and the quest for human flight

From the earliest days of recorded history, we humans have longed to fly.  Although the only known flying mammals are bats, Orville and Wilbur Wright, and other twentieth century inventors, built aircraft that enabled our species to soar through the skies.  These titles tell the story of their achievements and the many failures they experienced along the way.   

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
The Pulitzer prize winning author penned this biography about the brothers' formative years in Dayton, Ohio, where they operated printing and bicycle shops, progressing to their airplane workshop and proving grounds in Kitty Hawk, N.C. Intellectually gifted Wilbur had hoped to attend Yale University, but those hopes were dashed when he was severely injured while playing hockey.  Orville, who possessed great mechanical and spatial aptitude, was an excellent match for his genius brother. Both men were curious, inquisitive and courageous. Drawing on diaries, notebooks and letters, the author has drafted a profoundly moving volume about the quest for flight.
 
Birdmen by Lawrence Goldstone
This book, primarily about the rivalry between the Wright Brothers and machinist Glenn Hammond Curtiss in the quest to patent the first airplane, offers a colorful history of early aviation and the personalities who populated the dawn of the aeronautic age.  Peripheral figures profiled include Thomas Scott Baldwin, inventor of the parachute, early stunt pilot John Moisant and Harriet Quimby, the silent film star who became the first woman to fly across the English channel. Birdmen is a fitting tribute to the early years of American air travel.

The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age by Tom Crouch
Published to coincide with the one hundredth anniversary of the Wright brother's historic flight at Kitty Hawk, this title was written by a curator at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. In this book, he explains how the strict Calvinism practiced in the Wright home benefited the brothers, boosting their perseverance and resilience after their numerous setbacks -- but did little to prepare them to deal with the fame they encountered once they achieved their success. Lavishly illustrated with well known and obscure photographs, this book serves as a worthy companion to the Wright brothers exhibit at the Air and Space Museum. 

The Wright Sister by Richard Maurer
Like many women of her era, Katharine Wright, the younger sister of Orville and Wilbur, received little recognition during her lifetime.  Yet, she was the only one of the three to attend and graduate from college (Oberlin). Charged with running the household after the death of their mother, Katharine effectively discharged her homemaker responsibilities although she was only in her teens at the time. After graduating college and entering the workforce, Katharine also sacrificed her career as an educator to assist her older brothers in their quest for flight. This book provides a fascinating look into an often overlooked participant in the better known story of the Wright family -- and, while, written for those in the middle grades and above, its information is compelling and presentation appropriate for adult readers.
 
Wright Brothers, Wrong Story by William Elliott Hazelgrove
Conventional wisdom has long held that Orville and Wilbur Wright contributed equally in building the first manned flying machine.  The author of this engaging story questions the validity of this premise. Instead, he posits that Wilbur was indeed the more intellectually capable of the two and that Orville's contribution to the effort was primarily as a glorified mechanic. The author argues that the exaggerated importance of Orville's efforts originated with Orville, following the early death of Wilbur (from typhoid fever) in 1912. Since Orville outlived his older brother by over 30 years, dying in 1948, he and family friend Fred Kelly had plenty of time to shape a story that inflates Orville's contribution to the history of aviation.