Interesting Reading

Some interesting things I’ve been reading this year:

The Wright Bros by David McCollough is an interesting biography of the inventors of controlled heavier-than-air flight. One fascinating part was a reference to a speech made by Wilbur Wright at the Western Society of Engineers.

Link to my copy of the speech: “Some Aeronautical Experiments”, Wilbur Wright, 1901:

https://www.amssolarempire.com/PubDocs/Wright_Some_Aeronautical_Experiments.pdf

Link to where I obtained it from: Link
Link to the biography: The Wright Brothers, David McCollough

This is one example of what a first rate mind approaching a problem looks like. Wilbur makes it clear that the principal difficulty that he and his brother were tackling at Kitty-Hawk was the problem of controlling the vehicle while in the air. They built up the knowledge to do so with an extensive series of glider experiments. The experiment-heavy, experience heavy and iterative nature of their self-directed program contrasts with other efforts to build flying machines at the time: A large upfront investment made in an expensive machine which promptly crashes.

While the Wright Bros faced some pretty stiff incredulity and cynicism, most of that cynicism came from the world of the press and humanities. There was a fairly serious and supportive community of engineers who were making efforts to tackle the problem of heavier-than-air flight. (The Dayton Daily news refused to acknowledge their accomplishments, even as they were doing laps around Huffman Prarie. It fell to a Kentucky almanac run by a beekeeper to provide their first publicity!)

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