Two Young Men from Ohio Who Changed History: "The Wright Brothers" by David McCullough
One day in 1903, in the sandy, seaside Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed the direction of history. But it would take the world some time catch up with -- to both understand and appreciate -- what had happened that day. The age of flight had arrived, but its origin had been decidedly quiet, obscure, remote. And who exactly were Wilbur and Orville Wright, anyway? Our guest on ST is the distinguished American historian and biographer -- and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize -- David McCullough, who joins us to talk about his newest book. "The Wright Brothers" was published last month, and as a reviewer for Amazon noted at that time, when this title was chosen as an Amazon Best Book of May 2015: "Most people recognize the famous black-and-white photo of the Wright brothers on a winter day in 1903, in a remote spot called Kitty Hawk, when they secured their place in history as the first to fly a motor-powered airplane. That brilliant moment is the cornerstone of the new, masterful book by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, who brings his deft touch with language and his eye for humanizing details to the unusually close relationship between a pair of brothers from Dayton, Ohio, who changed aviation history. Bicycle shop owners by day, Wilbur and Orville taught themselves flight theory through correspondence with the Smithsonian and other experts. But the brothers soon realized that theory was no match for practical testing, and they repeatedly risked life and limb in pursuit of their goal -- including when Orville fractured a leg and four ribs in a 75-foot plunge to the ground. McCullough's narration of ventures such as this -- their famous first flight at Kitty Hawk; the flight in Le Mans, France, that propelled the brothers to international fame; the protracted patent battles back at home; and the early death of elder brother Wilbur -- will immerse readers in the lives of the Wright family. Like other great biographies before it, 'The Wright Brothers' tells the story about the individuals behind the great moments in history, while never sacrificing beauty in language and reverence in tone." And further, per Daniel Okrent in the pages of The New York Times Book Review: "[This is] a story of timeless importance, told with uncommon empathy and fluency.... [McCullough offers] a story, well told, about what might be the most astonishing feat mankind has ever accomplished.... 'The Wright Brothers' soars."