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To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 8. April 2003

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David M. KennedyAuthor of "Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945," winner of the Pulitzer Prize James Tobin explains with meticulous clarity the mysteries of nature and the challenges of technology that vexed the Wright brothers' pursuit of machine-powered flight. He also tells the riveting tale of their fevered rivalry with the imperious head of the Smithsonian Institution, Samuel Pierpont Langley, with fabled inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and with the brash daredevil Glenn Curtiss. How two homespun Midwestern tinkerers prevailed against such formidable competitors in the race to achieve the miracle of flight is a tale as thrilling as it is inspirational. An utterly engrossing read.


A history of the first-flight race documents the efforts of such Wright brothers' competitors as the Smithsonian's Samuel Pierpont Langley, Glenn Curtiss, and Alexander Graham Bell.

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The Struggle And Triumph Of The Early Fliers 27. Mai 2003
Von W. C HALL - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Imagine a race to achieve a great scientific breakthrough. Imagine this race pits a well-established, well-financed man of reputation against a couple of brothers, unknowns and without formal training or higher education of any kind. Imagine that the brothers, against all odds, emerge triumphant.
But your imagination isn't necessary, because this thrilling, dramatic story is true, and it's expertly told by James Tobin in "To Conquer The Air." This is the story of the Wright brothers, bicycle shop owners from Dayton, Ohio, who became fascinated by the potential for man to fly. It's also the tale of Samuel Langely, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, who was pursuing his own, ill-fated dreams of flight at the same time. Despite generous backing by the government and private individuals (including his friend, Alexander Graham Bell), Langely wound up the loser in this great competition.
Tobin's narrative vividly brings the Wrights, Langely, Bell and the other key players in the first decade of flight back to life. The narrative moves with the briskness of a good adventure story. We share the exhiliaration of the triumphs these man achieve; we're also party to their sorrows at failure.
In addition to making these men fully-dimensional, Tobin also manages to recreate the great awe, skepticism and wonder that greeted the inaugural of the age of flight. I can remember my mother telling stories about how, as a girl growing up in a large city in the 1930s, people would still hurry out of their homes to catch a glimpse of an airplane passing overhead. That sense of wonder, long since forgotten, lives once more, and animates these pages.
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A Detailed and Exacting Story about the Discovery of Flight 30. März 2003
Von Bookreporter - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
It is probably just a coincidence that two of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century were fifty years apart, more or less. Both of them celebrate an anniversary in 2003. The discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA occurred in 1953 and the first flight of the Wright Brothers in North Carolina happened in 1903. James Tobin chronicles the latter event in TO CONQUER THE AIR.
The discovery of DNA exemplifies most laboratory research: safe, sterile and subdued, with no risk of personal danger. This discovery was a great intellectual adventure, but without great physical challenge. Aviation is different and it continues to be different to this day, especially given the recent loss of seven brave aviation pioneers in the skies over Texas in a manner in which the Wright Brothers could have envisioned only in their most far-flung fantasies.
TO CONQUER THE AIR is primarily a story of intellectual discovery. It follows the parallel work of the Wright Brothers of Dayton, Ohio and Dr. Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian Institution, all of whom were working on powered aircraft in the early days of the twentieth century. The Wright Brothers are famous but unknown; they appear together in our collective unconsciousness on one windy day at Kitty Hawk and then vanish like smoke, brothers but not individuals. Langley's name is attached to an air force base in Virginia but is otherwise forgotten. Tobin does the reader a signal service in bringing the Wrights and Langley to colorful life and in reminding us of the debt we owe to them.
Langley's tale is the least known. He was an astronomer who developed an interest in powered flight late in life. As the president of the Smithsonian Institution, he was perfectly placed to lead the aviation revolution. He had the scientific knowledge, the insight and the necessary funding from an Army contract to build a prototype "aerodrome". He worked with some of the top engineers in the country to build a lightweight gasoline engine to power his craft. An unmanned version flew for about a mile in initial tests. But the great aerodrome was destined for a series of disasters, mostly in the full glare of national publicity.
The Wright Brothers had none of these advantages, but Tobin painstakingly explains how they were able to achieve powered flight when the best minds in the country could not. Their work on gliders, their research on lift and their intimate knowledge of the winds at Kill Devil Hill on the North Carolina coast all gave them an edge over Langley. One of the most memorable passages in the book describes how Charlie Taylor, the Wright's mechanic at their bicycle shop, put together a lightweight 12-horsepower gasoline engine out of spare parts, easily outdoing the best engine that Langley could provide for his craft.
The story of the race for flight is not especially romantic at times and it gets bogged down in arcane period details. Tobin might have been better advised to leave out the endless wrangling about the position of the Wrights' father in the United Brethren Church, or the kite experiments of Alexander Graham Bell. But Tobin tells his detailed, exacting story well and makes the mysteries of flight comprehensible. He never forgets how dangerous the whole project was (and still is, at times) and brings the Wright Brothers out of the dust of history and into the reader's imaginations --- as individuals, no less. TO CONQUER THE AIR is a fine book that provides a signal service in illuminating the discovery of flight.
--- Reviewed by Curtis Edmonds
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The Wright Stuff 24. April 2003
Von Bruce Loveitt - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
James Tobin has written a great book. Before I read this book the only thing I knew about the Wright brothers was that they were the first people to get a manned, heavier-than-air machine to fly, and this happened at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. I didn't know what happened before and after, and since I didn't know anything about the brothers they were only hazy historical figures. They didn't exist as real people for me. Mr. Tobin has changed that. By the use of extensive excerpts from personal letters and interviews, both Wilbur and Orville come alive in these pages. Thomas Edison once said that inventing was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. The Wright brothers exemplified that. Wilbur first wrote to the Smithsonian Institution to get all of the material they had on "flying machines," which obviously wasn't a great deal. The brothers started going to Kitty Hawk in 1900 and after that it was just a lot of hard work, with much trial-and-error. Finally, in 1903, they felt confident enough in the stability of their glider design that they were able to add a motor and make the "historic" flight. Mr. Tobin takes us much further, though, as the "historic" flight we all learned about in school lasted less than a minute and only took place a few feet off of the ground. The brothers realized that their invention was of use, primarily, to the military, so they had to modify things so that the plane had greater stability and could go higher and further. This involved many more practice flights. It is a tribute to Mr. Tobin's skills as a storyteller that this never gets boring. Everytime Wilbur or Orville go up we feel as though we are with them, and it feels exciting. Wilbur went to France to demonstrate to the government what the plane could do. Orville went to Virginia to show his own government the plane's capabilities. In 1909, Wilbur journeyed to New York and flew around the Statue of Liberty and up the Hudson River, between Manhattan and the Palisades. By one of those amazing coincidences of history, the Lusitania was pulling out of New York harbor and the people on board waved and cheered as Wilbur flew overhead. Of course, none of this happened in a vacuum. Mr. Tobin documents the exciting competition between the Wright brothers and Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian, Alexander Graham Bell (whose team included Glenn Curtiss), and others, to be first in the air and first to develop a plane with commercial promise. (It is also a running gag throughout the book that the French, who had pioneered ballooning, kept putting pressure on themselves to "beat" the Americans. Gallic pride was at stake!) The early history of flight resulted in the deaths of many pilots. It is a tribute to the scientific, methodical approach of the brothers that in the 12 years they were "active in the air" they only had one serious accident. Wilbur was only in his mid-forties when he died of typhoid fever in 1912. Orville lived on until 1948, but after Wilbur died Orville's flying days were over. They had been true partners, but Wilbur had been the driving force. After Wilbur died other people came along and built better planes, which could fly longer, faster and higher. But Wilbur and Orville Wright, two sober-minded, poker-faced brothers (a reporter watching them on the beach at Kitty Hawk remarked that they were so nonchalant they resembled a couple of bankers) led the way. Mr. Tobin's triumph is that he doesn't just give us the nuts-and-bolts, he also shows us the hearts and souls of two remarkable men.
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Get Ready for the Centennial 4. Mai 2003
Von R. Hardy - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Later in the year, you will, I predict, start seeing centennial reminders of a truly epochal event that has changed us all, and changed our world forever. On 17 December 1903, a couple of brothers from Dayton, Ohio, managed to get their "aeroplane" in the air, and we haven't come down since. There are plenty of biographies of Wilbur and Orville Wright, but in _To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight_ (Free Press), James Tobin has told mainly their story of intellectual discovery, and made it clear how much work the brothers did in making their dreams come about. As such, it tells a great deal about the others who were thinking about flight at around the same time; the Wrights were not experimenting or flying in a vacuum. The upcoming centennial celebrations ought to be worldwide, and readers of this engaging and detailed chronicle will have a much better idea of just what we will be celebrating.

The other main potential aeronaut was Dr. Samuel Langley, president of the Smithsonian Institution, and he hung his hopes for flight on a powerful but light engine. The Wrights, on the other hand, started out with the shape of the craft, especially the wings, to lead to flight. It was to get good wind for their kite and glider experiments, and unobstructed landing points, and also secrecy, that they went to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, for their trials. The developed the idea of warping the wing to control the machine, and invented "Kitty Hawk in a box," the wind tunnel, to do scientific lift experiments. When they discovered that wing warping would not allow full control without the kite yawing into a skid, they added a vertical tail, and it worked; such things could not be taken for granted back then. After successful flights of increasing length on 17 December 1903, the brothers walked four miles to send a telegram home about their success, ending with "INFORM PRESS." However, the press either printed exaggerated stories, or for the most part, ignored them. Whole nations remained incredulous, and only when Wilbur took a machine to France, and demonstrated it, and had the entire nation excited about him, did the world, including his own country, start paying attention.

There are fine portraits here of these taciturn men, their extremely close relationship with each other and with the father and sister within their staunchly Protestant family home. Neither brother married; Wilbur joked that they had no means to support "a wife and a flying machine, too." There are other players on the fringes here, like Octave Chanute, Alexander Graham Bell, and Glenn Curtiss, who played extremely important roles in flight or in the Wrights' work. Best of all is the account of painstaking work in an endeavor that all of us take for granted now. The book quotes one observer, for instance, as saying the flying machine looked absurd; cars, boats, and trains all traveled lengthwise, but an airplane came at you with the full width of its wings. In the finale of the book, Wilbur takes his machine on a grand sweep around Manhattan, entrancing the enthusiastic crowds beneath. Readers will be able to feel the enthusiasm.
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ALL WRIGHT 1. August 2003
Von E. E Pofahl - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Since 1788, men had been flying balloons and later dirigibles. Then during the last quarter of the nineteenth century scientists and inventors began addressing the problems of designing and flying a heavier-than-air craft (i.e. an airplane). This book is the story of the Wright brothers and the invention of the airplane-in the Wrights time they were called aeroplanes.
To understand the Wright brothers it is necessary to understand the Wright family. Throughout the book, the text devotes several pages to the Wright family as related to the two famous brothers. Both Wilbur and Orville were highly intelligent self-made men. The author relates how, without advanced education or prior job experience, at age twenty-two, Wilbur successfully defended his father in a church dispute. The author states "He argued with a mastery of facts, logic, and wit that veteran lawyers would later envy." Both brothers were proficient in math, physics and other sciences.
Their interest in flying began in 1894 when McClure's Magazine contained an article on the German flying pioneer Otto Lilienthal. The Wrights read everything they could on flying experiments and in May 1899 wrote the Smithsonian asking for any Smithsonian papers and a list of other works in print on flying. After countless hours observing pigeons birds in flight, they concluded that balance and control were the key to flying and conceived "wing warping" to provide lateral control. The author (James Tobin) narrates how in 1900 the Wrights began testing their theories by flying gliders as kites at Kitty Hawk North Carolina because the Kitty Hawk wind conditions met their experimental requirements.
Their gliders were biplanes. On October 20, 1900 "Will had never made a free flight in a glider. Yet on this day he chose to defy the world's only authorities on the basis of only his own calculations and preliminary experiments." Will made several flights. Their 1901 glider was also successful and provided much design data and flight experience. The text notes that Wrights considered that control and careful accumulation of flying experience were the keys to success. They proceeded in a planned/organized manner. The author recounts their experiments with manned glider flights, relating how they found the data in Lilienthal's aeronautical tables did not correctly determine lift and drag. In order to obtain the required data, they built a wind tunnel and evaluated airfoil shapes developing the required data.
Following the success of their 1902 glider, in 1903 using their own data they built a larger glider adding propellers and a gasoline engine, both of their own design, making it an aeroplane. Without first testing the machine as a glider, at 10:35 am on December 17, 1903 Orville made a flight of 120 feet in 12 seconds, the first manned flight. Before the end of the day, Wilbur had flown 852 feet in 59 seconds. In 1904, the Wrights built a new and improved aeroplane and began flying in open field outside of Dayton. The author notes that once "Will chased a flock of birds in two circles of the field." By the end of the 1905 flying season the Wrights had become competent aviators. Press coverage of the historic 1903 was scant and often inaccurate. While several invited people including reporters witnessed the 1904/1905 flights, press coverage was still limited. Broad patent protection was granted in 1906, and the Wrights temporarily stopped flying.
During this same period several competitors both domestic and foreign were working to be the first to conquer the air. The author does an excellent job summarizing the efforts of these competitors, which included Alexander Graham Bell and foremost, Smithsonian Secretary Samuel Langley. Langley made an unsuccessful attempt at manned flight on December 8th just nine days before the Wrights' successful December 17, 1903 flights. The Wrights and Langley had approached manned flight differently; the Wrights had been correct. Because of the Wrights' reticence, many refused to believe their success. The Army, who funded Langley by $ 50,000, showed little interest in the Wright aeroplane. In 1908 Wilbur Wright took a new aeroplane to France and starting in August began a series of spectacular flights establishing beyond doubt their right to being the first conquers of the air. Also in 1908 the Army became gave the Wright's a contract. The text narrates Orville's 1908 flights at Fort Myer, which after successful pre-acceptance flights resulted in a crash on September 17, 1908 that killed his passenger Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge.
The author gives an interesting account Wilbur's 1909 Hudson-Fulton Celebration flights around the Statue of Liberty and later up the Hudson River to Grant's Tomb and then back-down the river. After these flights, it was generally accepted that the Wright's had been the first to fly. Orville in the fall of 1911, when testing a new glider at Kitty Hawk, set a world's record for soaring-nine minutes and forty-five seconds-that stood for ten years. The text recounts the bitter competition that continued, especially from Glenn Curtiss. Certain Wright family members blamed Curtiss for Wilbur's premature death in 1912.
The book ends with an EPILOGUE concluding with the 1948 dedication of the original 1903 Wright Flyer at the Smithsonian.
This is an excellent well-written account of the invention of the airplane. The Wright brothers were much more than a couple of bicycle shop bumpkins; they were by any measure serious gifted scientists.
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