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The Wright Brothers: A Biography

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In this fascinating, highly readable biography, Fred C. Kelly, a former newspaperman, author, and an old friend of the Wrights, tells the story of the two brilliant, dedicated, flight-obsessed bicycle mechanics from Ohio who first realized mankind's age-old dream of conquering the skies. Long considered the definitive Wright biography (the manuscript was read and approved In this fascinating, highly readable biography, Fred C. Kelly, a former newspaperman, author, and an old friend of the Wrights, tells the story of the two brilliant, dedicated, flight-obsessed bicycle mechanics from Ohio who first realized mankind's age-old dream of conquering the skies. Long considered the definitive Wright biography (the manuscript was read and approved by Orville Wright), this book recounts the Wrights' small-town boyhood, their early interest in all things mechanical, the establishment of the Wright Cycle Shop, and the complete behind-the-scenes story of how they designed, built, tested, and flew (December 1903) the first "Flyer." Enhanced with sixteen rare photographs, Mr. Kelly's engaging account avoids minute technical description, yet describes simply and clearly the technological innovations that enabled the two brothers to succeed where so many others had failed. Anyone interested in the mechanics of flight or early aviation will find this volume a splendid introduction to the Wright brothers and their epochal achievement.


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In this fascinating, highly readable biography, Fred C. Kelly, a former newspaperman, author, and an old friend of the Wrights, tells the story of the two brilliant, dedicated, flight-obsessed bicycle mechanics from Ohio who first realized mankind's age-old dream of conquering the skies. Long considered the definitive Wright biography (the manuscript was read and approved In this fascinating, highly readable biography, Fred C. Kelly, a former newspaperman, author, and an old friend of the Wrights, tells the story of the two brilliant, dedicated, flight-obsessed bicycle mechanics from Ohio who first realized mankind's age-old dream of conquering the skies. Long considered the definitive Wright biography (the manuscript was read and approved by Orville Wright), this book recounts the Wrights' small-town boyhood, their early interest in all things mechanical, the establishment of the Wright Cycle Shop, and the complete behind-the-scenes story of how they designed, built, tested, and flew (December 1903) the first "Flyer." Enhanced with sixteen rare photographs, Mr. Kelly's engaging account avoids minute technical description, yet describes simply and clearly the technological innovations that enabled the two brothers to succeed where so many others had failed. Anyone interested in the mechanics of flight or early aviation will find this volume a splendid introduction to the Wright brothers and their epochal achievement.

30 review for The Wright Brothers: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa-Michele

    Had to read this after the McCullough book. I wanted to read someone who knew the brothers and wrote contemporaneously. The McCullough book seemed a little superficial to me, and the Kelly book a little fawning. But overall the topic captured me. Neither brother ever married or even left home. They were best friends, driving each other to innovate in their tiny Ohio bicycle shop. I would have read their story even if they didn’t invent anything. Both men were brilliant, inquisitive and mechanica Had to read this after the McCullough book. I wanted to read someone who knew the brothers and wrote contemporaneously. The McCullough book seemed a little superficial to me, and the Kelly book a little fawning. But overall the topic captured me. Neither brother ever married or even left home. They were best friends, driving each other to innovate in their tiny Ohio bicycle shop. I would have read their story even if they didn’t invent anything. Both men were brilliant, inquisitive and mechanically inclined. Neither went to college. They cared little for money. They challenged each other: “It may be noted that this habit the brothers had of arguing technical points was one of the reasons why they were able to accomplish all they final did in a relatively short time.” They decided to try flying in 1898, boldly sent away to the Smithsonian for suggestions, and then went to work. They flew at Kitty Hawk because the wind was right. Within five years they were flying more than ten miles at a time, and no one else could fly at all! Beyond their self-taught physics and calculus, they spent hours and days studying birds. What a concept. America ignored the brothers at first, so they went to Europe and became a flying sensation in 1907-09. Then Wilbur made his famous flight around the Statue of Liberty and America discovered them. Poignantly, they flew together for the first and last time in 1910, and Wilbur died in 1912. Orville lived to see rockets break the sound barrier and jet propelled planes before he died in 1947. Most of the later years were spent in patent fights, and they wrote: “When we think what we might have accomplished if we had been able to devote this time to experiments, we feel very sad, but it is always easier to deal with things than men…” Always. They both claimed their greatest privilege was a childhood full of inquiry: “It isn’t true to say we had no special advantages. The greatest thing in our favor was growing up in a family where there was always much encouragement to intellectual curiosity.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joseph R.

    This biography of Wilbur and Orville Wright focuses almost entirely on the creation of the first heavier than air flying machine and the brothers' aviation career afterward. The books starts with a brief overview of their childhood and how they started their bicycle shop as a natural result of their interest in mechanical things. They were also fascinated by the idea of flying and built many kites and gliders. Their interest quickly turned to the problem of building an engine-powered plane that This biography of Wilbur and Orville Wright focuses almost entirely on the creation of the first heavier than air flying machine and the brothers' aviation career afterward. The books starts with a brief overview of their childhood and how they started their bicycle shop as a natural result of their interest in mechanical things. They were also fascinated by the idea of flying and built many kites and gliders. Their interest quickly turned to the problem of building an engine-powered plane that could sustain flight for long periods. The brothers flew for the first time in 1903 on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. As their success grew, their fame did not. A lot of newspapers were either skeptical or scoffed at the idea that a machine heavier than air could fly. Many scientists shared (or perhaps inspired) those doubts. The Wrights were not particularly secretive about the project nor did they do much to promote themselves in the early years. At the time, Kitty Hawk was only accessible by boat from the mainland. They chose the area for the windy and generally flat conditions. As they improved their flyer, the Wrights were able to fly just about anywhere with a large enough field for takeoff. They moved their base of operations back to Ohio. By this point, Europeans had more interest and belief than Americans (though the European press was also skeptical), so the brothers toured the continent, demonstrating their plane to the rich, the royal, and the regular folk too. They returned to America where they had exhibitions for crowds and a demonstration for the American government, which finally became interested in the potential uses (mostly military) of airplanes. The book describes the scientific problems that the Wrights faced as they developed better and better planes. They had not gone to college, so they did most of their work on their own. They developed a wind tunnel to test out various wing shapes and angles. They initially built their own engines, needing to meet the weight and power specifications. Occasionally the book got into more detail than I was interested in but those were short passages. I chuckled a bit at the constant "this flight was a new world record" lines written in the book. The Wrights filed lots of patents and eventually had to spend a lot of time fighting patent infringers. The book ends with a chapter on the controversy between the Wrights and the Smithsonian Institution. In 1914, one of the patent infringers took an earlier failed flying machine from the Smithsonian, made some modifications, and showed that it could fly. The reporting by the Institution glossed over the significance of the modifications and implied that someone else invented the first heavier than air flying machine. The controversy continued into the 1940s when a new head of the Smithsonian worked with Orville on the clarification and retraction. The book is a quick and inspiring read. The brothers are interesting, unassuming people who worked hard at their passion. Their success changed the world. The focus is just on the invention of flying, so there is more to their lives that's not covered. Even so, this book is very good reading. Highly recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Intresting story about the invention of the airplane. I would have liked a little more about the Wright brothers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Farrah

    Wilbur is older and he died first The Bros were not supported by the American government Once the airplane was accepted as a safe and viable flying machine, the Wrights spent the rest of their lives fighting patent laws and suing people who violate them While the usual drive or impetus for invention in science is a desire for money, they guys actually cared about what they were doing. they were seriously, like, obsessed Kittyhawk is where the first flight happened France was significant but i can't r Wilbur is older and he died first The Bros were not supported by the American government Once the airplane was accepted as a safe and viable flying machine, the Wrights spent the rest of their lives fighting patent laws and suing people who violate them While the usual drive or impetus for invention in science is a desire for money, they guys actually cared about what they were doing. they were seriously, like, obsessed Kittyhawk is where the first flight happened France was significant but i can't remember how Besides these nibbly pieces of info, the book was boring and anecdotal, but I feel like Kelly was really old when he wrote it (with the help of Orville).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Miguel Panão

    A marvelous story of genuine creativity. The last chapter is one of the best and most intriguing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    This, now 70 + year old, biography of the Wright brothers is valuable because the author, newspaperman Fred Kelly, was a friend who covered the brothers for years, and was even instrumental in ending the quarrel between Orville and the Smithsonian. It is written in the style of the journalism of the time period, but because it is the only authorized biography of the brothers, it brings a freshness and closeness that other books, like the recent David McCollough book, do not. Because Wilbur died at This, now 70 + year old, biography of the Wright brothers is valuable because the author, newspaperman Fred Kelly, was a friend who covered the brothers for years, and was even instrumental in ending the quarrel between Orville and the Smithsonian. It is written in the style of the journalism of the time period, but because it is the only authorized biography of the brothers, it brings a freshness and closeness that other books, like the recent David McCollough book, do not. Because Wilbur died at a relatively young age, and this book was written towards the end of Orville's life, it does tend to focus a bit more on Orville. But the great value of this book is the vivid, almost first hand accounts of the brothers early years, and later their fight for recognition of their flight achievements.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dave Thompson

    As a contemporary of the Brothers Wright, Fred C. Kelly wrote the only authorized biography of the Wright Brothers. Originally published in 1943, the final manuscript earned the blessing of Orville Wright. Kelly brings the sensibilities of a newspaperman in the first half of the 20th century. As a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other publications, he covered the exploits of the Wrights. He was also involved in brokering the return of the 1903 Wright Flyer to the Smithsonian in 1949, a As a contemporary of the Brothers Wright, Fred C. Kelly wrote the only authorized biography of the Wright Brothers. Originally published in 1943, the final manuscript earned the blessing of Orville Wright. Kelly brings the sensibilities of a newspaperman in the first half of the 20th century. As a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other publications, he covered the exploits of the Wrights. He was also involved in brokering the return of the 1903 Wright Flyer to the Smithsonian in 1949, after it spent decades in a London museum while the Wrights fueled with the Smithsonian over their place in history. Kelly writes int he clipped style of a reporter, but the value of his firsthand accounts, and the priceless availability of fact-checking by Orville means I'm quite confident this version is the real deal.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Frank Cahill

    The Wright brothers were brilliant engineers and designers. They solved the problems of stability and control that allowed them to develop their aircraft and engine. Fred Kelly was a close friend, and his major source of information came from Orville. It shows. Much about Wilbur is left out. The first chapter is drudgery for me, but afterward it picks up somewhat to reveal many facts about the brothers and their efforts to prove the success of their invention. It is difficult to grasp just how mu The Wright brothers were brilliant engineers and designers. They solved the problems of stability and control that allowed them to develop their aircraft and engine. Fred Kelly was a close friend, and his major source of information came from Orville. It shows. Much about Wilbur is left out. The first chapter is drudgery for me, but afterward it picks up somewhat to reveal many facts about the brothers and their efforts to prove the success of their invention. It is difficult to grasp just how much they were ignored for several years after their first flight. This book makes a good introduction to the lives of the Wright brothers. For those whose interest lies more in the details and genius of their technical developments, it will be necessary to find an additional source.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dante Ballarin

    this book was so cool! Its crazy to believe that these brothers changed the world forever. No matter what happened these brothers always never gave up. When the everything failed they never stopped trying. All of there hard work paid off.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Benny King

    I thought this was an excellant book on the beginings of avaiation.A lot of first hand information. I picked it up at the Wright Brothers Historical Site in Kitty Hawk, NC

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lindie

    Loved this book, it had lots of new and good information from a news papers reports view.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    I enjoy reading stories of people with such inventive minds like the Wright Brothers. A great read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    A complete, official, and highly biased account by Orville.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Blake

  15. 4 out of 5

    jerald spath

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Rollert

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Gross

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alan Boyle

  19. 4 out of 5

    K Moore

  20. 5 out of 5

    Beth Parks

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mudit

  22. 5 out of 5

    DANIEL KITTS

  23. 4 out of 5

    Yaaresse

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rick

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ori Shiri

  27. 4 out of 5

    Berke Tuna

  28. 5 out of 5

    Evan Seccombe

  29. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pat Webb

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