- Dayton.com staff
Claim to fame: One of the two famous Dayton Wright brothers who developed one of the greatest inventions of all time — the airplane — and manned the first powered flight.
Early accomplishments: Before that famous flight at Kitty Hawk that made history books, Wilbur and his little brother Orville teamed up to accomplish many great things before moving onto solving the mysteries of flight. In 1889, the brothers began to publish a weekly newspaper, the West Side News. The following year, they published a short-lived daily newspaper, The Evening Item. After limited success in the printing business, Wilbur and Orville Wright decided to sell and repair bicycles. They opened up the first of several bicycle shops in 1893, and three years later, the Wrights began building bicycles of their own design. The successful bicycle business provided the funds for their flight experiments, and it expanded their knowledge of building machines.
His legacy: Wilbur is credited with developing the theory of wing warping. The Wright Brothers questioned the accepted theories on the fundamentals of flight at the time, so they built a wind tunnel in their shop to recalculate them. This enabled them to design new wings and build gliders that were capable of long, controlled flights. The data from the glider flights allowed them to perfect the airplane design. The first powered flight occurred in the morning of Dec. 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, N.C. The brothers took turns flying their glider, with Orville going first. By the end of the day, Wilbur Wright had flown 852 feet in 59 seconds. The brothers then set out to build a practical aircraft, and by 1905 had succeeded. The combination of scientific experimentation, theoretical knowledge and mechanical skills demonstrated by Orville and Wilbur Wright made them pioneers of aviation.
Did you know? Wilbur was described as quiet, but sure of himself. He was intellectually motivated, excelled in school, had an extraordinary memory, and was a good athlete. But after a hockey injury, he was never quite the same. After his injury, he shifted his focus to caring for his mother, who died of tuberculosis in 1889. Wilbur did not receive a high school diploma or attend college. He had no formal engineering training. But both brothers were committed to broad learning and supplemented their schooling with a great deal of private study. The brothers in fact had an education comparable to a modern four-year college degree. Wilbur never married. He once told reporters that he didn’t have time for a wife and an airplane. A life cut too short, Wilbur died at age 45 after suffering from typhoid fever.
Sources: Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame, Wright Dunbar Inc.; Dayton History; NASA; National Museum of the U.S. Air Force; History.com.
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