Scott's history of human efforts to fly, from 1400 B.C. to the end of World War I, is a chatty and engaging chronicle. As the starting date hints, it took some time to work out the principles of flight and to develop the power sources and the control mechanisms to act upon them successfully; the pace picked up dramatically in the nineteenth century. Colorful personae in the drama of flight and Scott's coverage include the gliding experts Octave Chanute and Otto Lilienthal, two who came tantalizingly close to flight--the American Hiram Maxim and the Frenchman Clement Ader--and, of course, the Wright brothers, who put it all together and then spent much of the rest of their lives harassing other American aviators with patent infringement suits. Nor were these the only early aviators with wings of clay. Although Scott uses about a third of the book (especially when covering World War I) to retrace very well traveled paths and scants lighter-than-air aviation, his is a most absorbing, highly readable effort.
This lively history of humanity's quest for flight begins at the very beginning, covering scientific principles that paved the way for flight, such as Archimedes' water screw and the angled blades that powered windmills, through the development of hot air balloons and gliders, to the Wright brothers and other pioneer aviators. Includes b&w photos and diagrams. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)