Thursday, December 20, 2007

The flight of Wright

WNYC's Radio Lab commemorates the first human flight: Orville and Wilbur Wright's achievement to get their plane off the ground on December 17th 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The program (and the podcast) turns out as a crafty collage of voices, sounds, music and statements. Ten minutes of depicting the achievement, outlining the historical importance and some human interest.

The feat of the Wright brothers speaks to the imagination. I recall learning about them in grade school and I see my son learning about them in grade school as well. The romantic fascination is inevitable and the Radio lab podcast hits that tune full force. For a moment I wanted to resist, if not for a simple thought expressed also in the show.

The Wright brothers in their efforts were about 10 years ahead of their competitors (or fellow researchers). Had they failed, flight may have entered world history ten years later. What is the difference between 1903 and 1913? It is that war we have been writing about so much in this blog lately: The Great War. Not that air force was really significant in this war, but it was widely experimented with, further adding to its rapid development.

The last second thought with regards to the romantic appraisal of the flight of Wright - are we better off with flight becoming real as early as 1903? Any slight alteration with regards to the Great War and whatever It brought about, affects us heavily today. What if...? Bad medicine for historians.

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