Who invented the airplane? Many of us have taken an airplane and flown from coast to coast in a manner of hours. But many of us have never thought to ask who invented the airplane. We all learn in school that it was the Wright Brothers and usually that’s the end of it. But, there is so much more to the story than just who invented the airplane. Humans have been trying to fly like the birds for thousands of years; it just worked out correctly for the two brothers in 1903, but the story started way before that faithful day.
The two boys grew up in Ohio with three other siblings, when their father moved them there from Indiana. Their father was a bishop in the church, and they were encouraged to pursue anything that would interest them intellectually. The family’s house was filled with lively debate, as their father would frequently make the brothers argue about various topics, and then halfway through the debate, switch sides and argue for the opposite. The home was also adorned with not one but two libraries. The one upstairs was filled with religious and philosophy books; the lower floors of the library was filled with everything else. In this library, the brothers studied hard, and this is where their fascination with flight began.
One day, their father returned home, and brought the brothers a toy helicopter. It was little more than paper, bamboo, cork and a rubber band to twirl the blades around, not much different than the toy airplanes of today. The brothers would later say that this toy would push them towards their ultimate destiny of the inventors of the airplane. Over the next few years, the brothers tried to recreate this invention all on their own; however, they kept running into the same problem. The larger that they build the copter, the more unstable and non-aerodynamic they became. So they moved onto kites. Their fascination with flight would take a back seat as Wilbur was injured during a hockey game, losing his two front teeth. The injury was not that bad, but for some unknown reason, the 19-year-old boy withdrew from his normal life, and stayed inside for a large portion of his life over the course of four years.
During this time, Wilbur took care of his mother who was dying of tuberculosis, and spent a large portion of this time reading the books over and over in the family library. Then in 1889, the brothers teamed up once again to build a printing press. This invention allowed them to print their own newspaper. First, the paper was printed weekly, but soon grew to a daily and became quite popular around the town. The brothers then opened a bicycle shop, and this mechanical know how soon took its place as one of the final puzzle pieces to the brothers knowledge of flight. Orville invented a self-oiling wheel hub, and the brothers even put out their own brand of bicycle. Then, while working at the shop, the brothers read about a man named Otto Lilienthal, who tragically died in a glider crash, but did prove that human flight was indeed possible.
The brothers, excited by this news, renewed their interest in human flight, and began experimenting with different wing shapes and designs for different aircrafts. Soon, they had developed a general idea of aerodynamics, and would soon become who invented the airplane. From 1900 to 1902, they asked the weather bureau where the windiest places were that had enough space for the test. One of the first places on this list was a place called Kitty Hawn, NC. It was sufficiently rural enough, and winds there gained speed after falling down the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The brothers built their prototype airplane, and on December 17th, 1903, they tested their invention. This date would become a date to remember, as the brothers were the first to achieve the lofty goals of human flight. They had realized the dream of countless people throughout the ages. The Wright Brothers were writers, philosophers, bicycle crafters, and inventors of the airplane.
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