The Wright Brothers is the third book I’ve read by David McCullough. It’s also my favorite. I enjoyed John Adams and 1776, but The Wright Brothers helped me understand why people have been so fascinated by Wilbur and Orville Wright.
McCullough does a wonderful job telling their stories and capturing their personalities. He conveys what motivated them and what was most important to them. Their family of origin was near the top. Both men were products of their time and place. The world was ready for the first airplane and the brothers had the resources and the freedom to study and experiment until they created it.
The events leading up to their triumph caused me to wonder about fate and destiny. The two brothers’ lives, characters, and interests dovetailed and contained the perfect ingredients required to conquer the competition to accomplish the first successful mechanical flight. Both men were highly intelligent, had keen minds for engineering (without college degrees), and had solid business instincts that helped them crack the requirements for human flight and profit from their efforts.
Of course, there is a dark side to humans conquering the air, and McCullough hints at what’s to come, alluding to H. G. Wells’s prediction of death falling from the sky. Wells was writing at the same time the Wrights first took to the skies in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. World War I was to shortly prove his dire predictions were warranted.
Most books have something I see to improve. But with this one, it’s hard to find fault. The pacing, the stories, and the characters are all superb. If I can enjoy a book about engineering, anyone can.