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Wilbur Wright

Birthplace: New Castle, Henry, Indiana, United States
Death: May 30, 1912 (45)
Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio, United States (typhoid fever)
Place of Burial: Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Bishop Milton Wright 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: Private User
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.

Birth: Apr. 16, 1867
Millville Henry County Indiana, USA Death: May 30, 1912 Dayton Montgomery County Ohio, USA

Inventor, Aviation Pioneer. He was the older of the Wright Brothers, the siblings who are credited with inventing the first practical airplane and starting the aerial age. Along with his brother Orville, the pair started a printing business in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio which soon expanded to a bicycle shop. Their interest in flying was piqued by their father, a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, and their mechanical aptitude came from their mother, a tinkerer who made small appliances and toys). After becoming interested in flight, they set a goal to invent a device that would not only fly but take off and land. Starting with a kite, then gliders, and finally they added a propeller and an engine to their vehicle, which eventually became known as the "Wright Flyer". They tested their invention on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in December 17, 1903, which resulted in the first sustained self-propelled flight in history, and the airplane was born. They returned to Dayton and continued their experiments at Huffman Prairie Flying Field. After working on and perfecting their airplane, they were awarded a patent in 1906. They started trying to attract potential customers with demonstration flights in Europe and elsewhere, and eventually received contracts to build planes for the United States Army,. Wilbur and Orville Wright started the Wright Company and began filling orders. However, Wilber would die of typhoid fever in May 1912, and Orville, discouraged, sold the business in 1912 and retired. The two had been very close, lived at home and never married. Today the "Wright Flyer" is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. along with the stopwatch used to time the first flights. (bio by: Donald Greyfield)

Family links:

 Milton Wright (1828 - 1917)
 Susan Catherine Koerner Wright (1831 - 1888)
 Reuchlin Wright (1861 - 1920)*
 Lorin Wright (1862 - 1939)*
 Wilbur Wright (1867 - 1912)
 Otis Wright (1870 - 1870)*
 Ida Wright (1870 - 1870)*
 Orville Wright (1871 - 1948)*
 Katharine Wright Haskell (1874 - 1929)*
  • Calculated relationship

Burial: Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum Dayton Montgomery County Ohio, USA Plot: Section 101, Lot 2533

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Wilbur Wright's Timeline

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