19th Century Foreground, 20th Century Background

Although some early aviation aficionados allege other flights (or hops) preceding the Wright brothers’ experiments at Kitty Hawk on 1903 December 17, the Wright Flyer did fly four times that day, including a final flight nearly one minute long, with the Wrights famously photo documenting their progress. They never flew that first aircraft again. Instead, they went home to Dayton Ohio and built the successively better Flyer II and III and the Model A. Using those aircraft, Wilbur and Orville Wright became the first to fly for one minute, the first to fly for two minutes, for half an hour, for one hour, and for two hours. In fact, all world record flight times between 1903 and 1909 were set by the Wright brothers. They truly were first in flight.

The Wrights became world famous when they demonstrated their flying machines in Europe in 1908-1909. Wilbur went first and was later joined by brother Orville and sister Katherine. Crowds came to watch them; even King George of England crossed the channel to France to see the modern miracle of flight. In the accompanying photo, farmers with an ox cart pause to watch Wilbur Wright and a passenger fly overhead, the 19th century foreground contrasting with the 20th century background.

Wilbur Wright instructing a student pilot in Pau, France, passes over an ox cart in 1909

Wilbur Wright instructing a student pilot in Pau, France, passes over an ox cart in 1909

About John F. Lindner

John F. Lindner was born in Sleepy Hollow New York and educated at the University of Vermont and Caltech. He is a professor of physics and astronomy at The College of Wooster. He has enjoyed multiple yearlong sabbaticals at Georgia Tech, University of Portland, and University of Hawai'i. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, celestial mechanics, and variable stars.
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One Response to 19th Century Foreground, 20th Century Background

  1. Saul Ali says:

    ….and it was all just the beginning

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