Inventor Stories

The Wright Brothers Journey to Flight

shutterstock_50537956Wilbur and Orville Wright are the two people we need to thank for how tight-knitted the world has become today. Whenever we think of exploring new cultures and visiting new destinations across borders, Wilbur and Orville Wright are the first two people who have made these possible by being at the forefront of aviation – but their journey was not an easy one.

Wilbur was born on April 16, 1687 in Indiana. He was the third child in a family of five children, and was older than Orville by four years. They grew up as close as can be, with Orville and Wilbur being inseparable playmates when they were kids.

Their father, Milton Wright, was a bishop who had to preach regularly. This took him on trips a lot and he often brought back presents for the children to enjoy. On a fateful day in 1878, he gave 7-year-old Orville and 11-year-old Wilbur a model helicopter made of bamboo and paper, with a rubber band powering its blades. This sparked Wilbur and Orville’s interest in aeronautics and studying the mechanisms behind it.

Wilbur was a bright student who excelled in his academics. He was on his way to Yale after high school when he was harshly injured during a ice hockey game. His injuries healed but the accident caused Wilbur to plunge into depression, causing him to not receive his high school diploma and to stay at home instead of go to college. He retreated to reading books and tending to his mother, who was diagnosed of tuberculosis.

In 1889, Three years after the incident, Wilbur and Orville launched their own newspaper, the West Side News. They also started their own bike shop, as bicycles became a shared passion for the two boys. They used the shop to fix bicycles and design their own.

This fueled their love for mechanics even more. The Wright Brothers decided to start their own experiments with aeronautics when German aviator Otto Lilienthal died in a glider crash. Transferring to North Carolina for its windy environment, the Wright Brothers were determined to come up with their own design. They invented the concept called “wing warping” which aimed to emulate the way birds angled their wings. On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers flew their first power-driven controlled flight on a plane that was heavier than air.

They were met with hostile reception. Many did not believe the brother’s claims, and many credible people and institutions shrugged off their discovery. Wilbur then opted to move to France five years later.

It was there where they met their success. The audience was much more welcoming towards their idea, and soon enough, Wilbur was giving public flights to statesmen, the press, and many more. A year later, Orville joined his brother, and it was not before long that they were featured in many newspapers for flying royal personalities and heads of state. They sold their airplanes in Europe and rapidly became wealthy, and soon enough, their business grew to take over the United States too.

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