by: John Caddell
I've been reading a lot about the Wright Brothers this week, given our stopover at Kitty Hawk on the way to South Carolina for spring break. The novella-length Wikipedia entry was interesting reading on the Blackberry web browser while we headed toward North Carolina at 11pm. [As soon as I get a chance to edit the video I shot at Kitty Hawk, I'll post that as well.]
Among the interesting resources I found was a fifty-year-old article in the Atlantic Monthly, which excerpts "Miracle at Kitty Hawk: The Letters of Orville and Wilbur Wright," using a sample of the letters to outline the brothers' career. The article says this, about the period when the Wrights discovered that certain aeronautical assumptions which they and others had taken for granted were invalid:
Wilbur Wright said, on their way home after the 1901 gliding experiments, that he didn't think man would fly in a thousand years. In a way, though, as Orville Wright said long afterward, it was encouraging to learn that the work of predecessors could not be relied upon. It meant that more knowledge was needed, rather than that flight was impossible.
This passage stopped me in my tracks. Discovering that Lilienthal's lift projections, on which they had based their glider designs for years, were erroneous did not discourage the Wrights--it did just the opposite.
Which is a brilliant summary of the entrepreneurial mind.
(Photo: the Wright Brothers' 1901 glider. Courtesy of NASA.)