Today in History – May 22, 1906 – Wright brothers patent improvements to “flying machine”. From the patent: Our invention relates to that class of flying machines in which the weight is sustained by the reactions resulting when one or more aeroplanes are moved through the air edge-wise at a small angle of incidence, either by the application of mechanical power or by the utilization of the force of gravity. The objects of our invention are to provide means for maintaining or restoring the equilibrium or lateral balance of the apparatus, to provide means for guiding the machine both vertically and horizontally, and to provide a structure combining lightness, strength, convenience of construction, and certain other advantages which will hereinafter appear.
Years earlier, on December 17, 1903, the Wright Flyer stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Over the next few years, the Wright brothers developed more capable airplanes and grabbed the world’s attention in their European and American flights in 1908.
December 17, 2003 marked 100 years of flight, starting with the first successful Kitty Hawk flight. The Wright brothers were in the spotlight, while their sister, Katharine Wright, remained in shadow. Katharine, a teacher who graduated from Oberlin College, was the only one of the three to graduate from college and is reported to have scored very high in algebra exams in high school. She is credited with being the Wright brothers’ business manager and publicist. Perhaps she was one of the first teachers to bring aviation ideas into the classroom?
Aviation, and more recently space travel, continues to inspire awe and inspire. The National Academy of Engineering places the invention of the airplane as one of the top modern mileposts: Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century. Women were there from the beginning; discover the 100 most influential women in aviation and aerospace on this timeline.
For more information, see the Engineering Pathway’s educational resources on “100 Years of Flight“, as well as on aviation and aeronautic engineering. For related curricula, visit the Aeronautical Engineering Education community.