The Wright Brothers
The Wright Brothers, David McCullough, 2015, ISBN 978-1-4767-2875-9, 320 pp.
McCullough has penned this most wonderful book on the Wright Brothers. No such book could be wonderful regarding the Wright Brothers without accurately describing their achievements (which is done quite correctly). And what achievements they were in pioneering not only manned flight but developing the scientific as well as engineering rigor which became aeronautics. McCullough’s writing has the reader experience, not only noting, the moment when this brother duo realized the data published by the heroic Octave Chanute, as well as Otto Lilienthal, were absurdly incorrect—that now incandescent instance marks the birth of modern aeronautics with techniques used to this day.
Naturally, the author addresses these achievements but this book goes far beyond recitation of history. McCullough’s smooth style and full research has readers magically become aware of how the Wright’s came to be the Wright Brothers, the critical importance of their mother and her genetic traits which allowed them to realize significant mechanical abilities. Quite possibly it was their father who helped forge their minds into a combined as well as superb analyzing talent. McCullough explains all as a wise and unbiased friend.
Various persons and businesses are noted making this story a tapestry. Where did the muslin for the wings originate? Who was the man who developed their engine and what manner of man was he? How was life at Kitty Hawk? Which brother cooked? Which wrote? How close were the Wright’s? Who was Katherine Wright and how much she helped over decades? McCullough has readers understand the answers to these queries and so much more–making the Wright brothers three-dimensional people, not two-dimensional historical facts. This is one of McCullough’s sublime talents as a writer, which has this book as a joy to read. The joy that comes from getting to know good people–one of life’s greatest experiences.
Do not expect this book to explain the increasingly secretive nature of the Wright Brothers, especially after the death of Wilbur Wright or Orville’s estrangement from Katherine after her marriage. Also, McCullough chose to not fully address their lawsuit against Glenn Curtiss which dragged along for a decade before ended by the federal government nor how the Wright’s became millionaires. What and how much did they sell? How were they manufacturing facilities organized? No, this book is about the Wrights, not their business empire, and the obstacles they overcame as pioneers brilliantly blazing a trail toward manned flight. McCullough presents his facts, cites his work, and explains his conclusions so that the reader has confidence in their newly realized knowledge of not only who each Wright brother was but who the Wright Brothers were so that they became giants in aviation.