April 23, 2021

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

David McCullough, the famous author of history who turns 82 this week, has done it again, created a riveting account of the Wright Brothers and their single-minded endeavor to allow man to defy gravity. The reader is drawn into the world of Wilbur and Orville from their bicycle business in Dayton, Ohio to their experiments at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Not all was smooth sailing at the outset. Naysayers doubted they had fabricated a machine that could actually fly. Competitors like Alexander Graham Bell and Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian worked to beat the Wright Brothers in the race to build a viable airship. Frequent accidents not only destroyed their airplanes but sometimes caused bodily injury or even death to those venturing into the sky.

Their travels abroad to Paris, LeMans, London and Italy are relayed in interesting detail as they meet kings, captains of industry, military men and ordinary folk in Europe.

We come to have great affection for the taciturn Wilbur, the more fragile Orville, their dedicated sister, Katherine and their down-to-earth father, the Reverend Milton Wright.

McCullough envelops us with copious information that never overwhelms, but draws us into the narrative much like a good novel does. The Wright Brothers joins such enlightening McCullough works as John Adams, Truman, The Greater Journey, 1776, The Johnstown Flood  and The Great Bridge.

The  Wright Brothers written by David McCullough, published by Thorndike Press, 2015.


With graduation season having just ended, mention of David McCullough Jr. should be made. Not only is he the son of author David, but he is the high school teacher who gave a 12 minute commencement speech at a school near Boston entitled, “You Are Not Special”  which went viral on electronic media. Well-turned phrases and brilliant ideas surely runs in the family.

David McCullough, Jr.’s commencement speech:

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