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David McCullough: The Wright Brothers, Much More Than Flight

Simon & Schuster

We take for granted that we can jump on a plane and get to every corner of the globe in a mater of hours, but there was once a time when there was no such thing as a flying machine.

Pittsburgh native and Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough has recently published the book The Wright Brothers looking at the lives of the two men most responsible for the invention of flight.

We all know the Wright brothers were bicycle mechanics from Dayton who invented the airplane said McCullough in an interview with Essential Pittsburgh leading up to his sold-out lecture in Pittsburgh.

“But there is so much more to the story and the more I got into it the more I was fascinated by them as human beings apart from the extraordinary change they brought to the world,” McCullough said.

Much of the book is based on the paper trail left by the brothers.  McCullough called them along with their entire family “great letter writers”.  The author combed through more than 1,000 business correspondences and a similar number of personal letters.

“These are open doors into their thoughts, their ambitions, their values, their character,” McCullough said of the “treasure trove” of letters and diaries he found hidden in the library of congress. “None are dull or short.”

Not only did the men figure out how to leave the ground, but they also had to invent the mechanisms to control that flight. 

“Wilbur was a genius, there is no question about it, and he sensed it even as a boy… and he knew he was not cut out for a normal life as they knew it in Ohio,” McCullough said.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.