Biography of Orville Wright

Wright Brothers Monument
Wright Brothers Monument, Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, USA. Danita Delimont/Getty Images

Why Is Orville Wright Important?:

Orville Wright was one-half of the aviation pioneers known as the Wright Brothers. Together with his brother Wilbur Wright, Orville Wright made history with the first-ever heavier than air, manned, powered flight in 1903.

Orville Wright: Childhood

Orville Wright was born on August 19, 1871, in Dayton, Ohio. He was the fourth child of Bishop Milton Wright and Susan Wright. Bishop Wright was in the habit of bringing small toys home to his children after traveling on church business and it was one of these toys that Orville Wright attributed for his early interest in flight. It was the miniature Penaud helicopter that Milton Wright brought home in 1878, a popular mechanical toy. In 1881, the Wright family moved to Richmond, Indiana, where Orville Wright took up kite building. In 1887, Orville Wright started at Dayton Central High School, however, he never graduated.

Interest in Printing

Orville Wright loved the newspaper business. He published his first newspaper together with his friend Ed Sines, for their eighth-grade class. By sixteen, Orville worked summers in a print shop, where he designed and built his own press. On March 1, 1889, Orville Wright began publishing the short-lived West Side News, a weekly newspaper for West Dayton. Wilbur Wright was the editor and Orville was the printer and publisher.

The Bicycle Shop

In 1892, the bicycle had become very popular in America. The Wright Brothers were both excellent bicyclists and bicycle mechanics and they decided to start a bicycle business. They sold, repaired, designed, and manufacture of their own line of hand-built, made-to-order bicycles, first the Van Cleve and the Wright Special, and later the less expensive St Clair. The Wright Brothers kept their bicycle shop until 1907, and it was successful enough to fund their flight research.

The Study of Flight

In 1896, German flight pioneer, Otto Lilienthal died while testing his latest single-surface glider. After reading extensively and studying bird flight and Lilienthal's work, the Wright brothers were convinced that human flight was possible and decided to conduct some experiments of their own. Orville Wright and his brother began experimenting with wing designs for an airplane, a biplane that could be guided by warping the wings. This experiment encourages the Wright brothers to proceed with constructing a flying machine with a pilot.

Airbourne: December 17, 1903

On this day Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first free, controlled, and sustained flights in a power-driven, heavier-than-air machine. The first flight was piloted by Orville Wright at 10:35 A.M., the plane stayed twelve seconds in the air and flew 120 feet. Wilbur Wright piloted the longest flight that day in the fourth test, fifty-nine seconds in the air and 852 feet.

After Wilbur Wright's Death in 1912

Following Wilbur's death in 1912, Orville carried their legacy alone towards an exciting future. However, the hot new arena of aviation business proved volatile, and Orville sold the Wright company in 1916. He built himself an aeronautics laboratory and returned to what had made he and his brother so famous: inventing. He also stayed active in the public eye, promoting aeronautics, inventing, and the historic first flight that he made. On April 8, 1930, Orville Wright received the first Daniel Guggenheim Medal, awarded for his "great achievements in aeronautics."

The Birth of NASA

Orville Wright was one of the founding members of NACA aka National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Orville Wright served on NACA for 28 years. NASA aka National Aeronautics and Space Agency was created from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1958.

Orville Wright's Death

On January 30, 1948, Orville Wright died in Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 76. The home Orville Wright lived in from 1914 until his death, he and Wilbur planned the design of the house together, but Wilbur passed away before its completion.

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Bellis, Mary. "Biography of Orville Wright." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 27). Biography of Orville Wright. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "Biography of Orville Wright." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 31, 2023).