Wright brothers and their invention
The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane by Russell FreedmanRussell Freedman’s books are just fantastic. In each one, he focuses in on an area of history that fascinates him, connects the dots into a cohesive narrative that tells a story with a beginning, middle and end, and then enriches the verbal with visuals that match up perfectly, usually from primary sources. And he does so in a hundred pages or so.
‘The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane’ is no exception. Freedman’s got a good story. Wilbur and Orville Wright were a couple of nerdy kids who loved tools and tinkering. They had the advantages of a middle class life, made possible by their preacher father, a rising star in the United Brethren Church. But neither finished high school. Their mother died from tuberculosis. They had no corporate sponsors, no sponsors at all, to back their experiments in flight. Through a combination of luck—getting into the bicycle business just as two-wheeled peddling became a national craze—and stick-to-itiveness, they were able to change history.
It’s an exaggeration to say the Wright Brothers ‘invented’ the airplane, but not much of one. While contemporaries also produced motor-propelled flying machines, Wilbur and Orville realized the key was not just getting the dang things in the air, but keeping them up there. They really can make the claim to the first sustained and controlled flight.
I read Freedman’s book because a student with whom I’m working was reading the National Geographic-published ‘Airborne: A Photobiography of Wilbur and Orville Wright,’ by Mary Collins, for a book report. It was interesting and enlightening to compare two works. At the same time, I read Paul Clee’s ‘Before Hollywood: From Shadow Play to the Silver Screen,’ another history book aimed at younger readers.
One reason I liked Freedman more than Collins and Clee was that ‘The Wright Brothers’ was more straightforward and clear. ‘Airborne’ intersperses narrative with tinted photos overlayed with quotes from the brothers and periodicals of the day. ‘Before Hollywood’ occasionally presents information in sidebars, rather than in the main body of text. I suspect that such book layout, designed, I’m sure, to catch the reader’s attention and draw him in, can be distracting and confusing. I’m convinced it is for me.
This is a style engrained in schools’ social studies presentation. Look at nearly any textbook.
Usually suffering from authorship by committee, these books often seem drained of the enthusiasm that a single writer genuinely involved with the entire scope of his work, like Freedman, brings to the text. Their neutral, stilted prose is an unappetizing draw, so perhaps publishers figure that by jazzing up the graphics, they’ll get kids excited. It doesn’t work.
I know this is generalizing, but so be it. History in elementary grades, and in high school, is almost always boring, boring, boring. Sidebars, overlays, and other digressions from a consistent and linear narrative serve only to obfuscate central concepts that are delivered in a lackluster, bland style.
When kids really engage with history, they get excited. You can see it when they read historical novels, or watch the History Channel, or even, on occasion, read a work such as ‘The Wright Brothers,’ or another Freedman book I just finished, the recently published ‘The War to End All Wars.’ They want a story.
But they are rarely given that opportunity.
Add to this requirements to ‘research’ history on the internet, where dubious and trustworthy sources are as easily accessed, with lots and lots of possible distractions, and you’ve got a world that is failing to give children a sense of historical context, and the critical tools to evaluate and make use of what they’ve learned.
It’s a world that needs more Russell Freedmans, and more books like ‘The Wright Brothers.’
Highly recommended for fourth graders on up.
The Wright Brothers and the First Airplane Flight
They made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft with the Wright Flyer on December 17, , four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In —05, the brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft, the Wright Flyer III. Although not the first to build experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible. The brothers' breakthrough was their creation of a three-axis control system , which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium. This approach differed significantly from other experimenters of the time who put more emphasis on developing powerful engines. The brothers gained the mechanical skills essential to their success by working for years in their Dayton, Ohio -based shop with printing presses, bicycles, motors, and other machinery.
Wright brothers , American brothers, inventors, and aviation pioneers who achieved the first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight Two boys, Reuchlin — and Lorin — , were born to the couple before Wilbur was born on a farm near Millville. The young family then moved to Dayton , Ohio , so that Milton could take up duties as the editor of a church newspaper. In that city a pair of twins, Otis and Ida, were born and died in Orville arrived a year later, followed by Katharine — Elected a bishop of the church in , Milton spent long periods of time away from home visiting the Brethren congregations for which he was responsible. The family moved often: to Cedar Rapids , Iowa , in ; to a farm near Richmond , Indiana, in ; and back to Dayton in
Since the Wright Brothers, no one has done anything fundamentally different. Nor is it especially accurate. The first fixed-wing aircraft -- a kite mounted on a stick -- was conceived and flown almost a century before Orville and Wilbur made their first flights. The Wrights were first to design and build a flying craft that could be controlled while in the air. The entire aerospace business, the largest industry in the world, depends on this simple but brilliant idea. So do spacecraft, submarines, even robots. More important, the Wright Brothers changed the way we view our world.
Orville Wright and his elder brother, Wilbur Wright, were the inventors of the world's first successful airplane. The brothers successfully conducted the first free, controlled flight of a power-driven airplane on December 17, They subsequently became successful businessmen, filling contracts for airplanes in both Europe and the United States. Today, the Wright brothers are considered the "fathers of modern aviation. As a child, Orville was a mischievous and curious boy, and his family encouraged his intellectual development. Milton traveled often for his church work, and in , he brought home a toy helicopter for his boys. Orville and his brother were fascinated by the toy, and a lifelong passion for aeronautics was born.