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Wright, Wilbur:see Wright BrothersWright brothers,
American airplane inventors and aviation pioneers. Orville Wright 1871–1948, was born in Dayton, Ohio, and Wilbur Wright, 1867–1912, near New Castle, Ind.
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Wright, Wilburaviation pioneers, inventors. The sons of a minister (later bishop) of the United Brethren Church, they showed mechanical genius from boyhood, although neither bothered to graduate from high school. In 1892 they opened a bicycle sales and repair shop in Dayton, Ohio, and soon were making and selling their own bicycles. Reading about experiments with gliders spurred their interest in flight, and they built their first glider in 1899, a biplane kite with wings that could be twisted mechanically. The brothers made their first trip to Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1900 to conduct glider experiments on the sand hills there. Back in Dayton they built the first wind tunnel and prepared their own tables of lift-pressures for various wing surfaces and wind speeds. They also built a powerful four-cylinder engine and an efficient propeller, and in September 1903 they returned to Kitty Hawk. Bad weather delayed the testing of this aircraft until December 17, 1903, when Orville piloted it on a flight of 12 seconds and 120 feet; Wilbur flew later in the day, staying aloft for 59 seconds to cover 852 feet. The brothers built two sturdier, more reliable planes over the next two years and in 1906 received a U.S. patent for a powered aircraft. Initially they sold their plane to the British and French governments, but in 1908 the U.S. War Department contracted for a Wright flying machine for the army. In 1909 they formed the American Wright Company and proceeded to manufacture their improved planes and to train pilots. Wilbur, a bachelor as was his brother, died of typhoid in May 1912. In 1915 Orville—who had continued to test fly all his planes—retired from the aircraft manufacturing business to pursue his own research interests. During World I he accepted a commission as a major to serve as a consultant to the army air service and he served for many years on the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.