Academic journal article The Science Teacher

A Fever for Flight

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

A Fever for Flight

Article excerpt

On May 13, 1900, using stationery of the Wright Cycle Company, Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, handwrote a letter to fellow aviation pioneer Octave Chanute of Chicago, Illinois. He began: "For some years, I have been afflicted with the belief that flight is possible to man. My disease has increased in severity and I feel that it will soon cost me an increased amount of money, if not my life. I have been trying to arrange my affairs in such a way that I can devote my entire time for a few months to experiment in this field."

In the five-page letter (excerpt pictured below), Wright stated emphatically that manned flight was attainable. "It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill," he wrote. He further declared that flight pioneers needed to share insights: "The problem is too great for one man alone and unaided to solve in secret." He asserted that sharing information would cause no financial harm, since the inventor of the first flying machine would be unlikely to make a profit. Lastly, Wright asked Chanute to recommend a place with strong winds and other attributes needed for test flights. The collegial tone of the letter reflects a spirit of collaboration between two members of an intellectual community striving to solve a problem together. …

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