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Technology and Engineering

This is an image of Kill Devil Hill at the Wright Brothers National Monument

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Wind, sand, and the dream of flight brought Wilbur and Orville Wright to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where they achieved the first successful airplane flights on December 17, 1903. With courage and perseverance these self taught engineers relied on teamwork and the application of scientific process.

They had seemingly settled into respectability as proprietors of a small business. But the Wright brothers of Dayton, Ohio nurtured a barely respectable dream; the possibility of flight. Wilbur, four years older, quiet and intense, a dreamer who could lose himself in books. Orville was outgoing, talkative, and an immaculate dresser. Both combined intuitive mechanical ability with analytical intelligence.

In 1892 they opened a bicycle shop and prospered, but they were restless, especially Wilbur. Their energies were focused by two events of 1896; the death in a flying accident of Otto Lilienthal, the celebrated experimenter with gliders, and the successful launching of powered models by Samuel Langley. The Wright's serious work in aeronautics began in 1899 when Wilbur wrote the Smithsonian for literature. Dismayed that so many great minds had made so little progress, the brothers were also exhilarated by the realization that they had as much chance as anyone of succeeding. Wilbur took the lead in the early stages of their work, but Orville was soon drawn in as an equal collaborator. They quickly developed their own theories, and for the next four years devoted themselves to the goal of human flight.

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