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« Segre-Gate | Main | A Sincere Apology »

Almost A Century

Ninety nine years ago today, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, two bicycle mechanics and aeronautical engineers from Dayton, Ohio, made their first controlled, powered heavier-than-air flight, inaugurating an entirely new mode of transportation. They essentially invented the field of aeronautical engineering and the science of aerodynamics.

I suspect that they had a bigger impact on the twentieth century than any politician or academic intellectual.

Posted by Rand Simberg at December 17, 2002 07:25 AM
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As far as I know, they also invented the wind tunnel... which they used to characterize and refine their propellor designs. I'd venture that it's hard to overestimate what the Wright brothers did, which goes right along with your comments.

Posted by Troy at December 17, 2002 04:42 PM


You think this flying thing will ever catch on?

Posted by Kevin McGehee at December 18, 2002 05:19 AM

Check out this page that claims that a farmer in New Zealand named Richard Pearse was the first to fly an airplane he built by himself in his barn in 1902.

A full year ahead of the Wright Brothers. What do you think, is this true? Personally, I think that if it is true that the events were so close together that it doesn't matter. Also considering the fact that the Wright brothers were in the position to fly heavier than air aircraft and have it witnessed, documented, and talked about. Thus it was the Wright Brothers flight that can be credited with signalling the beginning of aviation and aerospace.

Posted by Hefty at December 18, 2002 07:47 AM

I don't know if it's true or not, but what many don't realize was that the Wright's achievement was not in simply getting a heavier-than-air machine off the ground, but doing so in a controllable manner. It's not clear whether Pearse or Whitehead achieved this. From reading about the Pearse experiences, it doesn't appear so.

Posted by Rand Simberg at December 18, 2002 09:29 AM

Another point is that it is a bit like finding out who was the first to discover a land. Sure the actual natives were there first, but they didn't tell anyone else about it, so it wasn't any use.

Invention is only any good if you tell everyone about it.

Posted by Patrick at December 18, 2002 09:16 PM

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