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The Wright Brothers Summary & Study Guide

David McCullough
This Study Guide consists of approximately 43 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Wright Brothers.
This section contains 596 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Wright Brothers Summary & Study Guide Description

The Wright Brothers Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough is a biography of the brothers who invented the first functioning flying machine. While the book touches on the personal life of the brothers and their family, the focus on the book is on the ten-year pursuit by the Wright Brothers of developing the airplane.

The brothers are both around thirty and still living in the family home when an interest in aeronautics that always existed among them began to really take flight. While Wilbur was raised to consider his slightly younger brother, Orville, as the boss, it was Wilbur’s visionary nature and curiosity that set the brothers on a course that would change history forever and in a manner so momentous that they actually created a new age for mankind – the age of aviation. The results of their dedication, intelligence and perseverance are obvious in modern times. Their invention changed the world forever.

Wilbur was very bright and planned on attending college. Due to a horrible accident, he was laid up for a lengthy period and was unable to begin his university career. The accident was part of the brothers’ destiny because it left the energetic and imaginative Wilbur idle with nothing but time on his hands. He and Orville had always been interested in aviation and led by younger brother Wilbur they began doing research on gliders that had been developed in the past and “flying machines” that had been built and failed. Wilbur was also fascinated with the flight of birds and observed birds in flight for hours at a time. He would later apply that knowledge to the warped wing that helped make their Wright Flyer successful.

After successful ventures in running a print shop, publishing a newspaper and operating a bike shop, the brothers developed a glider. They conducted research to find the location with optimum conditions for the testing of their aircraft. They learned that Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, would be ideal with its high prevailing winds and its soft sandy dunes that would accommodate soft landings. It was there in Kitty Hawk that the brothers did their first test runs which included taking turns in the piloting of the glider. With each test run, they learned more and more and continually made improvements and adjustments to their glider. The next step was adding a light-weight motor to the craft which would turn the glider into a flying machine.

After developing the Wright Flyer, Wilbur and Orville contacted the U.S. War Department which apparently wasn't interested because they didn’t even respond to their letter. The brothers were patriotic and wanted to sell their invention to their own country. The public and media dismissed their efforts with the fundamental belief that man wasn’t meant to fly. The Wright brothers found the true believers in France which was the home to many early aviators and aeronautics engineers and enthusiasts. The Wright brothers shipped their flying machine over to France and conducted trial runs in Le Mans that initially were at low altitudes, lasted only minutes and covered only feet and yards. Ultimately new altitudes were attained in flights that lasted for hours and covered many miles. The French declared them heroes and the world was soon enthralled with the accomplishments of the Wright Brothers.

Although a little late, the United States finally got on the bandwagon. In the year that the brothers spent in Europe, they amassed more than $200,000 in awards and sales. The skeptics who doubted the viability of the Wright brothers’ achievement were in the end silenced forever.

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