Book Review: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough


Author: David McCullough
TitleThe Wright Brothers
Narrator: David McCullough
Publication Info: Simon & Schuster Audio (2015)
Summary/Review:

The Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, are figures shrouded in the myths and legends of the pioneers of aviation.  David McCullough presents them as two distinct personalities, and introduces the Wright Sister, Katharine, an integral part of their team although she did not directly participate in the experiments with flight. While McCullough always writes (and reads!) in an engaging manner, he tends towards the hagiographic in his biographies.  At one point he observes that Samuel Pierpont Langley has a scientific team, the backing of the government, and millions of dollars and fails, while the Wrights succeed with a little bit of money, their self-taught skills, and a bit of grit.  This is unfair to Langley and wrapped up in the American mythos of the self-made entrepreneur.  That being said, the Wrights were remarkable figures and McCullough does well to provide their background with the key event of December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk not coming until halfway through the book.  After conquering the air, the brothers then split up to market their aircraft to the American military and abroad in France.  Orville suffered serious injuries in a crash in 1908.  Wilbur died young in 1912 and while Orville would live 76 years (long enough to still be alive when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier) he retired from flying in 1918.  Like any good biography this is the story of fascinating lives well told.
Rating: ***1/2

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