Publisher description for The pioneers of flight : a documentary history / Phil Scott.


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Counter The pioneers of flight left a legacy of inventions that changed the world. Unknown to most people, many also left compelling written accounts of their ideas, scientific discoveries, and attempts--both successful and disastrous--to take to the air. Phil Scott presents the first major anthology of these writings. His selections show how humans from Ovid to the Wright brothers and beyond dreamed about flying and puzzled over the principles of physics and aerodynamics that kept birds aloft and men grounded. Their eloquent and incisive writings form a record of scientific curiosity and individual tenacity that will fascinate aviation enthusiasts, historians of technology, and anyone interested in the drama of early flight.

Scott begins with Ovid's story of Icarus, who met his legendary fate by flying too close to the sun and melting the wax that held his wings together. He presents accounts of crude medieval experiments and the beginnings of a scientific approach to flight in Renaissance and early modern Italy. He includes a letter from the Marquis d'Arlandes about being aboard the Montgolfiers' famous balloon for the first ever manned flight. The book's main focus, however, is the development of airplanes in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Scott presents scientific notes, letters, patent applications, fund-raising proposals, newspaper reports, journal articles, and personal stories by or about such central figures as Sir George Cayley, John Stringfellow, Otto Lilienthal, Clement Ader, Octave Chanute, Louis Ble;riot, Glenn Curtiss, and, in particular, the Wright brothers. We read about the insights that led to propellers and to the shape of the modern wing, the frustrations and dangers of attempting flight, the Wrights' revolutionary technological innovations and their brilliant successes at Kitty Hawk, technical and commercial disputes, and the experiences of early women aviators and the adventurers who made the first long-distance flights.

Scott includes an extensive introduction that puts the selections in the context of aeronautical history. The Pioneers of Flight is a remarkable resource for anyone who wishes to understand how humans struggled and eventually learned to fly.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Aeronautics History Sources, Aeronautics History Chronology