(P)1994 by Blackstone Audiobooks
The image of the Wright Brothers that is handed down to us is a cartoon. Kelly gives us the real story and it is stunning. What appears clear is that aerodynamics in those day, to scientists and inventors alike, was about as mysterious as anything you might imagine today. More people understand general relativity today than understood aerodynamics and aeronautics then. The smartest people around the world simply couldn't figure it out. Many were left to conclude after experimentation that is wasn't possible. It took two brilliant, meticulous scientists with a gift for observation, a sixth sense about physics, especially aerodynamic principles, photographic memories, a talent for design and engineering, mechanical skills and a relentless willingness to experiment, about ten years to develop the first practical airplane. When scientists finally figured out what the Wrights had done, they generally agreed that if the Wrights hadn't done it, it might have been decades before anybody else would have. Nobody was even close. This wonderful and passionate account written in 1944 presents an amazing story of two extraordinary individuals.
This is a straight forward, competent account of the great Wright Brothers story. The reader sounds like a rapid-fire clipped newspaperman from the 40s or 50s. In fact, the entire story has the feel of an extended newspaper account. The story ends on a high note [spoiler alert] - the vindication of the Wright Bros. vis a vis the Smithsonian.
I prefer James Tobin's To Conquer The Air. It is a fuller, more fleshed-out and more dramatic account. If you are only going to buy just one, buy Tobin. If you are going to buy two, start with this one, and then enjoy Tobin.
This biography is showing its age. Written in the early 1940's, before Orville's death, much of the back story on the family and complex motivations behind some of their life choices, is just not here. The biographer is clearly in awe of the Wrights, (not a bad thing as they were exceptional and exemplary people), but there is deeper story to be told, but you won't find it here. The Wright Brothers by Ian Mackersey is a good read after this one. The reader mimics a 1940's newpaper reporter with a fast staccato style that at time grates. Worth a listen all the same as this amazing story never fails to be spellbinding.
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