Wilbur and Orville Wright were brothers and inventors of the world's first successful airplane. They are considered the fathers of modern aviation. Their greatest achievement was in developing the three axis control. It was something that helped the pilot to control and steer the aircraft efficiently while maintaining the equilibrium of the aircraft. After Wilber had passed away, Orville began developing technology for the United States army.

Early Life


Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867, near Millville, Indiana and Orville Wright was born on August 19, 1871 in Dayton, Ohio. Wilbur was the middle child among five children while Orville was his younger brother. Susan Catherine Koerner was their mother and Milton Wright, a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ was their father. It was after the birth of Wilbur that the family moved to Dayton, Ohio.
Wilbur was a bright student and he excelled in his studies at school. He had a strong personality and he wanted to study at Yale University after he had completed school. Orville, on the other hand, was a mischievous and curious boy. His family, however, always encouraged him and let his intellect develop.
Orville wrote in his memoirs, "We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity."

Their father, Milton Wright, travelled often for his church work and brought something for his children. During one of his trips in 1878, Milton Wright brought home a toy helicopter for his boys. The toy based on an invention by French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse PΓ©naud, was made of cork, bamboo and paper. A rubber band was used to twirl its twin blades. When Orville and Wilbur saw the toy, they were fascinated and it was then that their life long passion for aeronautics developed.
In 1881, the Wright family moved to Richmond, Indiana. While in Richmond, Orville developed a love of kites, and he began making his own kites at home. It was also here that Wilbur's dreams of attending Yale University were shattered. In the year 1886-87, Wilbur suffered a terrible accident that changed the course of his life. He got badly injured in an ice hockey match when during the game the hockey stick of another player hit him in the face. Though Wilbur recovered but he became depressed. He did not receive his high school diploma and refused to attend college. He retreated towards home. During this time, he read a number of books and also looked after his ailing mother.
Then, in 1887 the family once again moved back to Ohio, where Orville enrolled at Dayton Central High School. He, however, was more interested to know what was happening outside the classroom than what was happening inside. It was no surprise when he dropped out in his junior year of high school, and opened a print shop. He had worked in a print shop over summer, and now began designed his own printing press. On March 1, 1889 he began publishing the West Side News, a weekly paper for West Dayton. Wilbur was the paper's editor and Orville became the publisher. The brothers were successfull in their ven- ture and prospered. In the same year, tragedy struck the Wright family. Orville's mother, Susan Catherine Koerner Wright, died after a long bout of tuberculosis. After their mother had passed away, their sister
Katherine started looking after the household. It was during this time that the bond between the three siblings strengthened further and remained so throughout their lives.

The Bicycle Shop

After their mother's death, Orville and his brothes dedicated themselves to another shared interest, bicycles. It was because a new, safer design of the bicycle had set off a bicycle craze across the country. The Wright Brothers did not want to let go of this opportunity. So, they opened a bicycle shop in 1892 meant for selling and fixing bikes. The brothers were successful and in 1896 they started manufacturing a bicycle which they had designed. Orville invented a self-oiling wheel hub for their popular bikes. Soon, they were selling, repairing, designing and manufacturing their own line of hand-built, made-to-order bicycles. They first manufactured the Van Cleve and the Wright Special, and later the less expensive St Clair. The Wright Brothers kept their bicycle shop until 1907. The profits made through the shop allowed them to successfully fund their flight research. These ventures also showed their business sense and originality.

Bicycle Designed & Manufactured By The Wright Brothers

Inventing the Airplane

Always curious about the new developments in aeronautics, Orville and Wilbur followed the latest flying news. They especially closely followed the research of famous German aviator Otto Lilienthal. It was then that they realized that manned flight was possible. So, Wilbur started reading all he could to find about the science of aviation. Then, one day they learnt that Otto Lilienthal had died in a glider crash. The Wright Brothers were by now convinced and decided to start their own experiments with flight. The brothers were determined to develop their own work, so they headed to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where strong winds provided ideal conditions to fly.
Orville and Wilbur started experimenting with wings. Wilbur Wright thought of a ideal solution to the problem of flight. He described it as "a simple system that twisted, or warped the wings of a biplane, causing it to roll right and left. "Wilbur and Orville then started working to find out how to design wings for flight. They had realized that so far no one has been able to develop a system to control flight while the plane was in the air. Then, they observed that the birds angled their wings to balance and control their bodies during flight. The brothers coined the concept called "wing warping" and utilized it to develop a moveable rudder. The brothers had managed to make a design that had eluded all those who came before them.
The concept of "wing warping" allowed the pilot to control the roll of the plane ie the horizontal movement of the plane by raising or lowering the flaps located along the plane's wingtips. For ins- tance, if one raised a flap and lowered the other, it would turn the plane. Based on this concept the brothers made a glider and tested it. However, the glider did not work well in the beginning. The brothers, however, continued to make improvements and gradually learnt to control the glider while it was in flight. Now they needed an airplane that had not only the control of the wings but also motorized power. Soon they made an airplane with had a 4 cylinder, 12 horsepower gasoline engine weighing 200 pounds. They began their testing in no time.
On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers tasted success. They succeeded in flying the first free, controlled flight of a power-driven, heavier than airplane. Orville Wright made four flights that day. His first flight at 10:36 A.M. on Kill Devil Hill lasted for 12 seconds and the plane flew for 120 feet. The brothers were excited and they continued to conduct more flights that day. But it was the fourth flight made by Wilbur that lasted for 59 seconds and the plane flew 852 feet. The Wright Brothers had been successful. Thus the era of manned flight had begun. After this success, the brothers continued to improve their airplane.


The Wright Brothers, however, soon realized that not everyone appreciated their success. Many in the press, along with flight experts, were hesitant to believe the brother's claims. It was also because a number of further experiments had failed. Due to this, even the United States government refused to back them. Then, Wilbur set out for Europe in 1908, where he hoped that they would have more success convincing the public and sell their airplanes. In France, Wilbur found a more encouraging audience. He made several public demonstrations and even gave rides to officials, journalists and statesmen.
Meanwhile, Orville headed to Washington, D.C. where he demonstrated their flying machine in the hope of winning government and army contracts. Then, in July 1909, Orville completed the demonstration flights for the United States Army, who demanded that they built a passenger seat in the plane. When that was done, the Wright Brothers sold the plane for $30,000.
Their extraordinary success led to contracts both in Europe and the United States. Soon, the Wright Brothers had become wealthy business owners.
They started building a grand family home in Dayton, a place where they had spent much of their childhood. Wilbur and Orville always shared the credit or their innovations. Behind the scenes, however, one could see division of labour. Then, on May 25, 1910, Orville flew for six minutes with his brother Wilbur. It would be the first and the only flight that the brothers would make together. The same day, Orville also took his 82 year old father, Milton Wright, on his maiden and only flight.
In 1912 , after Wilbur passed away, Orville took over the presidency of the Wright Company. Unlike his brother, he did not have a business sense and therefore, he sold the company in 1915. He built himself an aeronautics laboratory, and returned to what he and his brother were best at: inventing. He also stayed active in the public eye as he promoted aeronautics, continued to invent and wrote about his first historic flight. On April 8, 1930, Orville Wright received the first Daniel Guggenheim Medal, awarded for his "great achievements in aeronautics."

A Manned Airplane

Death and Legacy

Wilbur Wright fell ill on a trip to Boston in April 1912. He was diagnosed with typhoid fever. He was unable to recover and he died on May 30 at his family home in Dayton, Ohio. Milton Wright, his father, wrote in his diary, "A short life , full of consequences. An unfailing intellect, imperturbable temper, great self-reliance and as great a modesty, seeing the right clearly, pursuing it steadfastly, he lived and died." Orville, however, after his brother's death spent the last three decades of his life serving on boards and committees related to aeronautics, including the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which was a predecessor to NASA. Neither of the brothers had married and Orville greatly disapproved of his sister Katherine's choice in marriage. Orville died on January 30, 1948, after a second heart attack. He is buried at the Wright family plot in Dayton, Ohio. He was 76 years old.

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