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Wilbur Wright

Birthdate:
Birthplace: New Castle, Henry, Indiana, USA
Death: Died in Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio, USA
Place of Burial: Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Milton "Bishop" Wright, Jr and Susan Catherine Wright
Brother of Reuchlin Wright; Lorin Wright; Otis Wright; Ida Wright; Orville Loren Wright and 1 other

Occupation: Aviator, Inventor
Managed by: Patrick Lee Schoettmer
Last Updated:

About Wilbur Wright

The Wright brothers -- Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912) -- were two Americans who are generally credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903. In the two years afterward, the brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible. Their U.S. patent 821,393 claims the invention of a system of aerodynamic control that manipulates a flying machine's surfaces.

Family Life

The Wright brothers were two of seven children born to Milton Wright (1828–1917) and Susan Catherine Koerner (1831–1889). Wilbur Wright was born near Millville, Indiana in 1867; Orville in Dayton, Ohio in 1871. The brothers never married. The other Wright siblings were named Reuchlin (1861–1920), Lorin (1862–1939), Katharine (1874–1929), and twins Otis and Ida (born 1870, died in infancy). In elementary school, Orville was given to mischief and was once expelled. In 1878 their father, who traveled often as a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, brought home a toy "helicopter" for his two younger sons. The device was based on an invention of French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse Pénaud. Made of paper, bamboo and cork with a rubber band to twirl its rotor, it was about a foot long. Wilbur and Orville played with it until it broke, and then built their own. In later years, they pointed to their experience with the toy as the initial spark of their interest in flying.

Early Career

The Wright brothers lived 7 Hawthorn Street, Dayton.

Both brothers attended high school, but did not receive diplomas. The family's abrupt move in 1884 from Richmond, Indiana to Dayton (where the family had lived during the 1870s) prevented Wilbur from receiving his diploma after finishing four years of high school.

In the winter of 1885–86, Wilbur was accidentally struck in the face by a hockey stick while playing an ice-skating game with friends, resulting in the loss of his front teeth. He had been vigorous and athletic until then, and although his injuries did not appear especially severe, he became withdrawn, and did not attend Yale as planned. Had he enrolled, his career might have taken a very different path than the extraordinary one he eventually followed with Orville. Instead, he spent the next few years largely housebound, caring for his mother who was terminally ill with tuberculosis and reading extensively in his father's library. He ably assisted his father during times of controversy within the Brethren Church but also expressed unease over his own lack of ambition.

Orville dropped out of high school after his junior year to start a printing business in 1889, having designed and built his own printing press with Wilbur's help. Wilbur shook off the lingering depression caused by his accident and joined the print shop, serving as editor while Orville was publisher of the weekly newspaper the West Side News, followed for only a few months by the daily Evening Item. One of their clients for printing jobs was Orville's friend and classmate in high school, Paul Laurence Dunbar, who rose to international acclaim as a ground-breaking African-American poet and writer. The Wrights printed the Dayton Tattler, a weekly newspaper that Dunbar edited for a brief period.

Career Development

They gained the mechanical skills essential for their success by working for years in their shop with printing presses, bicycles, motors, and other machinery. Their work with bicycles in particular influenced their belief that an unstable vehicle like a flying machine could be controlled and balanced with practice. From 1900 until their first powered flights in late 1903, they conducted extensive glider tests that also developed their skills as pilots. Their bicycle shop employee Charlie Taylor became an important part of the team, building their first aircraft engine in close collaboration with the brothers.

The Wright brothers' status as inventors of the airplane has been subject to counter-claims by various parties. Much controversy persists over the many competing claims of early aviators.

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Wilbur Wright's Timeline

1867
April 16, 1867
New Castle, Henry, Indiana, USA
1870
1870
Age 2
Dayton Ward 10, Montgomery, Ohio
1870
Age 2
Dayton Ward 10, Montgomery, Ohio
1880
1880
Age 12
Cedar Rapids, Linn, Iowa, United States
1900
1900
Age 32
Dayton City, Montgomery, Ohio
1910
1910
Age 42
Dayton Ward 5, Montgomery, Ohio
1910
Age 42
Dayton Ward 5, Montgomery, Ohio
1912
May 30, 1912
Age 45
Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio, USA
June 1, 1912
Age 45
Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio, USA