The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane

The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane

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by Russell Freedman

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The first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight, and the men behind it. A Newbery honor Book.


The first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight, and the men behind it. A Newbery honor Book.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Newbery winner Freedman ( Lincoln: A Photobiography ) has again produced a vivid, superior biography. This time focusing on a well-known pair of brothers, he effectively transforms our perception of the subjects as distant cultural icons into tireless, flesh-and- blood heroes. In understated, involving prose--skillfully laced with pertinent excerpts from journals, letters and contemporary accounts--Freedman lays out a clear and compelling history of the early aviation experiments that culminated in the legendary flight at Kitty Hawk. As with Lincoln , photographs are integral to Freedman's exposition and he makes ample, effective use of the many astonishing photos taken by the brothers in order to better document their experiments. Youngsters cannot fail to come away with a heightened understanding of the Wrights' dedication to manned flight and to the painstakingly slow process of invention. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Follow the lives of the Wright brothers and learn how they developed the first airplane. Early in 1899, Wilbur Wright wrote to the Smithsonian Institution for information on flight experiments. He wanted all that was known to date. His research and experiments led to the world's first powered, sustained and controlled airplane flight over the sandy dunes near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. The airplane has been called the first major invention to be fully documented by photography. Wilbur and Orville wanted to leave a detailed pictorial record and this book contains nearly 100 photographs in 128 pages. 1992 Newbery Honor Book. 1994 (orig.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
From self-taught bicycle mechanics to inventors of the first airplane is quite an amazing leap, but not when you consider the diligence, the determination, and the single-mindedness of Orville and Wilbur Wright. These bachelor brothers researched the work of others and never weakened in their resolve that man would fly. The inventive process has rarely been more vividly portrayed than in this biography. This is not only a fascinating biography of the brothers but also of their invention, which is enhanced with original photographs taken by Orville and Wilbur. 1994 (orig.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—The Wright Brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk changed the way people viewed the world and led to the creation of modern air travel. Russell Freedman's Newbery Honor biography (Holiday House, 1991) traces the brothers' lives and the events that led to manned flight. It captures the tenacity and determination of the brothers and their unwillingness to accept failure. Students will be surprised to learn that some of the devices on modern aircraft date back to their inventions. The multitude of interesting facts and minute details that draw readers into the print version seems to bog listeners down in the audiobook narrated by Knighton Bliss. The text is laced with quotes from journals, letters, eyewitness accounts, friends, and colleagues of Orville and Wilber, and sometimes the transitions between them are unclear in the audio format. The bonus disc features an interactive gallery of the photos taken by the brothers and others to document their experiments. Have the book available to facilitate note taking.—Sarah Flood, Breckinridge County Public Library, Hardinsburg, KY

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Newbery Honor Book Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)
1160L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 11 Years

Meet the Author

Russell Freedman received the Newbery Medal for LINCOLN: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY. He is also the recipient of three Newbery Honors, a National Humanities Medal, the Sibert Medal, the Orbis Pictus Award, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and was selected to give the 2006 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Mr. Freedman lives in New York City and travels widely to research his books.

The Wright brothers, Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912), were two Americans who are generally credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903. In the two years afterward, the brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed wing flight possible.

The brothers' fundamental breakthrough was their invention of "three-axis control", which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium. This method became standard and remains standard on fixed wing aircraft of all kinds. From the beginning of their aeronautical work, the Wright brothers focused on unlocking the secrets of control to conquer "the flying problem", rather than developing more powerful engines as some other experimenters did. Their careful wind tunnel tests produced better aeronautical data than any before, enabling them to design and build wings and propellers more effective than any before. Their U.S. patent 821,393 claims the invention of a system of aerodynamic control that manipulates a flying machine's surfaces.

They gained the mechanical skills essential for their success by working for years in their shop with printing presses, bicycles, motors, and other machinery. Their work with bicycles in particular influenced their belief that an unstable vehicle like a flying machine could be controlled and balanced with practice. From 1900 until their first powered flights in late 1903, they conducted extensive glider tests that also developed their skills as pilots.

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