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The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Dover Transportation) Paperback – July 1, 1989

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Kelly, a friend of Orville Wright and authorized biographer of the Wright brothers, was also an FBI agent, a newspaper columnist, and author of over a dozen books.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Transportation
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (July 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486260569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486260563
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,032,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Kelly wrote the "official" story, as "authorized" and sanitized by Orville Wright, of the brothers' Wright. As a devotee of the Wrights, it is unfortunate that Kelly filled his book with deficiencies and erroneous claims made on Orville's behalf. A careful reading of the entire Wright papers and material still unpublished, reveals that Wilbur was the "brains" behind the discovery of flight; it was Orville who added his mechanical expertise in the building of the flyer. It is so unfortunate that so much that continues to be written about the Wrights is merely a reshuffling of old facts and surmises, with the result of a perpetuation of errors and distortions.

It was John R. McMahon who told the real story based on his revision of an original manuscript by Earl Findley. Orville had turned to Findley to write the biography; but it was too near the truth; too personal; and he nixed it.

But the truth came out, when McMahon wrote a series of articles on the Wright Brothers in "Popular Science," January 1929. When he came to write his book, still based on the Finley manuscript, Orville protested and was able to get several passages, on threat of court action, changed in the book. For example, Orville didn't want the years Wilbur spent at home as an invalid, revealed. Orville also has himself elevated above Wilbur, as the creative driving force in the airplane's invention.

If you want to investigate the real story, take the Kelly book with a grain of salt, and read instead, John Evangelist Walsh' "One Day at Kitty Hawk," published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975. Even better, wouldn't it be good to have the unpublished Finley manuscript published, instead of suppressed.
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Format: Paperback
Fred Kelly did a wonderful job in bringing the story of the Wright Brothers to the public in this birgraphy. He starts us off by showing us the environment that the brothers grew up in and how the two had a curious and experimential nature about them. We are then shown the methods they had used in their experimentations for developing their flying machine. We can even feel the edge of competition as Samual Langly makes his attempt at manned powered flight only a day before the brothers and is met with failure.
It has been 100 years since that magical day on the North Carolina Outter Banks, and Kelly manages to bring the experience back to us to relive. This is also an excellent book for children to read. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
Fred Kelly has written the definitive biography of the Wright Brothers, with special emphasis on the 10 years after the first flight. During this time, the brothers worked diligently to explain the benefits of aviation to an unbelieving public and uninterested leaders of military and commercial concerns.

Kelly starts at the beginning, with tales of the brothers as young children and schoolboys, ultimately moving into the world of commerce as circus impressarios, printers, and bicycle builders and repairmen.

By the late 1890's they had selected aviation as a hobby, and started their annual pilgrimages to Kitty Hawk for several months each year to perform experiments. Only after 4 or 5 years of gliding and kite flying, was manned flight considered. By working long hours in the bicycle shop and minimizing all expenses, they were able to pursue this unusual hobby for several weeks each fall.

The obstacles were legendary, but the brothers persevered, usually by arguing (in a friendly way) between themselves, then reading every book on the subject in the Dayton public library, and then, developing new theories and experimental methods. In this way, they broke new ground in fluid dynamics, control and stability, motor construction, and propeller design. For example, they discovered that published tables of data on wind dynamics were wrong, so they built a wind tunnel to generate better data. The brothers had a unique ability to solve problems by applying a sound scientific approach and by going about it in an honest midwestern approach.

Those of us who were at the centennial did not hear the story of how little publicity the 1903 flight received.
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Format: Paperback
This, now 70 + year old, biography of the Wright brothers is valuable because the author, newspaperman Fred Kelly, was a friend who covered the brothers for years, and was even instrumental in ending the quarrel between Orville and the Smithsonian. As a result, this work is Orville making his case to posterity, through a friend.

It is written in the style of the journalism of the time period, but because it is the only authorized biography of the brothers, it brings a freshness and closeness that other books, like the recent David McCollough book, do not.

Because Wilbur died at a relatively young age, and this book was written towards the end of Orville's life, it does tend to focus a bit more on Orville. But the great value of this book is the vivid, almost first hand accounts of the brothers early years, and later their fight for recognition of their flight achievements.
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