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no friends in high places, no financial backers, no government subsidies, and little money of their own.” Yet the revolution the brothers made was honored by Neil Armstrong, who, within a human lifetime of their first flight, carried a piece of their plane to the moon.

Mc Cullough does a novelistic job in distinguishing the brothers.

And once Mc Cullough follows them to the windswept Outer Banks of North Carolina, “The Wright Brothers” takes flight.

Though locals in Kitty Hawk considered the brothers “poor nuts,” none could deny they were “two of the workingest boys” anyone had met. Instead of being hailed as heroes, the Wrights faced two years of hard-nosed skepticism about their airplane’s “fabled performances.” Never concerned with fame, they labored on until they could fly for miles above the fields outside Dayton.

Wilbur was a frenetic dreamer, living “in a world of his own,” a world that might have taken him to Yale if not for a grim hockey injury that led to three housebound years and the opening of a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio.

Fighting the persistent myth of invention’s “aha” moment, Mc Cullough shows the importance of experiment, error and inspiration in nature.

Although they studied early gliders, Orville and Wilbur also watched birds.

With his ear for dialect and eye for detail, Mc Cullough puts the Wrights in historical context, flushed out by vivid portraits of their loyal father and sister.

Leaving behind bikes to build gliders, the brothers soon outpaced competitors in England, France and at the Smithsonian Institution.

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