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The Wright Brothers

The Dramatic Story-Behind-the-Story

About The Book

​The incredible true story of the origin of human flight, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough.

On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot.

Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did?

David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells the surprising, profoundly human story of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Far more than a couple of unschooled Dayton bicycle mechanics who happened to hit on success, they were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity, much of which they attributed to their upbringing.

In this thrilling book, McCullough draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including private diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence to tell the human side of the Wright Brothers' story, including the little-known contributions of their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them.

About The Author

Photograph by William B. McCullough

David McCullough twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. His other acclaimed books are 1776, Brave Companions, The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge and The Greater Journey. He was the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. He died in August 2022, aged 89.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (May 7, 2015)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781471150395

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Raves and Reviews

'A story of timeless importance, told with uncommon empathy and fluency... A story, well told, about what might be the most astonishing feat mankind has ever accomplished... The Wright Brothers soars.'

– Daniel Okrent, New York Times Book Review

'David McCullough has etched a brisk, admiring portrait of the modest, hardworking Ohioans who designed an airplane in their bicycle shop and solved the mystery of flight on the sands of Kitty Hawk, NC. He captures the marvel of what the Wrights accomplished and, just as important, the wonder felt by their contemporaries... Mr McCullough is in his element writing about seemingly ordinary folk steeped in the cardinal American virtues – self-reliance and can-do resourcefulness.'

– Roger Lowenstein, Wall Street Journal

'The nitty-gritty of exactly how [the Wrights] succeeded is told in fascinating detail.'

– Buzzy Jackson, Boston Globe

'Few historians have captured the essence of America – its rise from an agrarian nation to the world's dominant power – like David McCullough... McCullough has defined American icons and revealed new dimensions to stories that long seemed exhausted... An elegant, sweeping look at the two Americans who went where no others had gone before and whose work helped create a national excellence in aviation that continues today.'

– Ray Locker, USA Today

'McCullough’s magical account of [the Wright Brothers'] early adventures – enhanced by volumes of family correspondence, written records and his own deep understanding of the country and the era – shows as never before how two Ohio boys from a remarkable family taught the world to fly.'

– Reeve Lindbergh, Washington Post

'[McCullough] takes the Wrights’ story aloft... Concise, exciting and fact-packed... Mr McCullough presents all this with dignified panache, and with detail so granular you may wonder how it was all collected.'

– Janet Maslin, New York Times

'David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers is a story about two brothers and one incredible moment in American history. But it’s also a story that resonates with anyone who believes deeply in the power of technology to change lives – and the resistance some have to new innovations.'

– Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google

'McCullough vividly re-creates the failures and disappointments as the Wright brothers puzzle out the science of bird- and insect-wing design... [McCullough] continues to deliver high-quality material with familiar facility and grace.'

– Larry Lebowitz, Miami Herald

'An outstanding saga of the lives of two men who left such a giant footprint on our modern age.'

– Booklist (starred review)

'[An] enjoyable, fast-paced tale... A fun, fast ride.'

– The Economist

'[A] fluently rendered, skilfully focused study... An educational and inspiring biography of seminal American innovators.'

– Kirkus Reviews

'McCullough's usual warm, evocative prose makes for an absorbing narrative; he conveys both the drama of the birth of flight and the homespun genius of America's golden age of innovation.'

– Publishers Weekly

'Having twice won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for his best-selling histories and biographies, McCullough is a much-loved dean of Americana, and his new book, a dual biography, has a warm appeal.'

– James Salter, New York Review of Books

'Mr McCullough has gathered detailed information from hundreds of sources to create yet another inspiring American story... Compelling.'

– Thomas W. Schaaf, Sr, Washington Times

Awards and Honors

  • ALA Notable Book
  • Heather's Pick - Fiction

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: David McCullough