Pioneer Aviator, Inventor. Wilbur Wright was the older of the two Wright brothers, who would invent the prototype to the modern airplane, starting the aeronautical age. The brothers’ interest in flying was encouraged by their father, Milton, a well-educated bishop in the Church of The United Brethren in Christ, who traveled away from home frequently. The brothers inherited their mother Susan's mechanical ability, as she made small appliances and toys. She even made toys that would fly. Wilbur had planned to attend Yale University but a serious ice hockey accident in the winter of 1886 caused him to become depressed while recuperating, thus he left high school but was self-taught reading books. Their mother died in 1889 from tuberculosis. Orville, his younger brother, left high school in his senior year. At this point, the brothers started a printing business producing two newspapers in their hometown of Dayton, which soon expanded to a bicycle shop. They became interested in inventing a device that would not only fly but take off and land. Starting with a kite, then gliders, they finally added a propeller and an engine and the "Wright Flyer" was created. They tested their invention on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in December 17, 1903, which resulted in the first sustained self-propelled flight in history, and the airplane was born. An extraordinary achievement, Wilbur flew the plane for 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet. After their successful four Kitty Hawk flights, they returned to Dayton and continued their experiments at Huffman Prairie. They were awarded a patent in 1906 and started trying to attract potential customers with demonstration flights in Europe and elsewhere. They were welcomed in Europe by heads of states and royals. With orders in hand including a contract to build planes for the United States Army, the brothers started the Wright Company and began filling orders, however upon the sudden death from typhoid fever of Wilbur in May of 1912, Orville became discouraged and sold the business the same year, and retired. He outlived his brother Wilbur by 36 years. The two brothers had been very close, lived at home and never married. Today the "Wright Flyer" is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., along with the stopwatch used to time the first flights. The brothers were nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics nine times but never received the coveted award.
Bio by: Linda Davis