Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Wright Brothers: Book Review

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough, tells the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright, aviation pioneers who solved the puzzle of powered flight and changed the world forever. McCullough, best known for his lengthy biographies John Adams and Truman, delivers a briefer book to tell the story of the Wright Brothers, but it is no less compelling or lacking in the detail one has come to expect from his works.

The Wright Brothers provides the obligatory look at the Wright’s early life in Dayton, Ohio, introducing the reader to their family, including a mother who died young, their father, Bishop Milton Wright, and their sister, Katherine. The book also briefly covers their entrepreneurial efforts, the bicycle repair and manufacturing shop that helped pay for their aviation experiments, but focuses mainly on their efforts to design and build a flying machine. The Wright’s were meticulous experimenters, working with gliders at Dayton and later at Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was at Kitty Hawk that they would achieve their goal, powered flight, but the story didn’t end there. Skepticism that the Wrights had accomplished anything at Kitty Hawk followed them for many years, but they knew they had to perfect their techniques and engineering. They were unwilling to rush through their experiments, and eventually their patience and attention to detail paid off. Their demonstration flights in France and Fort Meyer, Virginia became the stuff of legend. 

Like his books on Truman and Adams, McCullough has again produced the definitive biography of his chosen subject, providing a well-researched and informative history of the birth of powered flight and the men who perfected it. The Wright Brothers tells an inspiring story of the triumph of American ingenuity.

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