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Paula Mackersey
The Wright Brothers book
One of aviation's most widely reproduced photographs. Orville Wright lying prone on the lower wing, makes the world's first successful, controlled powered flight at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, 17 December 1903. The figure on the right is Wilbur.
The Wright Brothers book: Haystack
A farmer looks up at the Flyer on a 1909 flight from Pau in southern France. The previous year the aeroplane had flown for 2 hours 20 minutes.
The Wright Brothers book: Family
The Wright family. From left: Wilbur, sister Katharine, mother Susan, brother Lorin, father Bishop Milton Wright, brother Reuchlin, Orville.
The Wright Brothers book: House
7 Hawthorn Street, the Wright Brothers' Dayton, Ohio home.
The Wright Brothers book: Lady
Katharine Wright
Wilbur (left) and Orville Wright at the height of their celebrity in 1909.
[Wright Brothers biographies]
Tom Rolt books

The Wright Brothers: The Remarkable Story of the Aviation Pioneers who Changed the World

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Ian Mackersey

Little, Brown (Time Warner Books) UK, London: November 2003
ISBN: 0 316 861448

The conquest of the air at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on 17 December 1903, was one of the supreme achievements of the 20th Century. Two unknown American bicycle mechanics, Wilbur and Orville Wright, launched that day the first successful powered aeroplane, changing the world for ever.

On the centennial of the historic first flights Ian Mackersey produced a revealing new study of the lives of these eccentric geniuses. Wilbur and Orville were brothers who never smoked, drank or had a vestige of interest in women, but whose exceptionally close relationship bound them into one uniquely inventive power. Their brilliance unlocked the secrets of mechanical flight to realise one of man’s oldest dreams. But it would be five years before they lifted the veil of secrecy with which they untrustingly cloaked their revolutionary machine.

Ian Mackersey brings to life a Midwest family swept up in the fame, jealousies and law suits that exploded around these famous brothers: the extreme measures they took to conceal the details of their invention – which led to failure to sell their magnificent machine to the world; the domineering figure of their father, Bishop Milton Wright, whose United Brethren Church wars raged distractingly alongside the process of invention; their feisty adoring sister, Katharine, whose marriage late in life led Orville never to speak to her again; the miseries of the public adulation and bitter legal battles that brought Wilbur to the verge of collapse. Drama and tragedy never ceased to punctuate their lives.

The result of four years new research, this rare Wright Brothers biography from a British author, explains accessibly the aerodynamic breakthrough that had defeated inventive minds for centuries. And from a trove of previously unpublished Wright family correspondence Ian Mackersey throws new light on tragic events that cast a dark cloud over the last twenty years of Orville’s life.

An American film producer has acquired the feature movie and TV drama rights to the book.

What the critics said of the Wright Brothers biography:

Sunday Telegraph (London): ‘Many aviation historians can be classified as anoraks. Ian Mackersey is in a different league . . . He explains the science with such clarity that even your reviewer could understand it. This is a wonderful human story.

Guardian (London): ‘His biography turns their heady science into a gripping intellectual thriller, and recounts a family saga on a par with the Magnificent Ambersons . . . ’

Independent (London): ‘Mackersey, an excellent writer as well as a keen flyer, handles his subject with the assurance of long familiarity, painlessly easing the tyro into basic aerodynamics and the history of early flight . . . reads like a particularly exciting novel.’

Financial Times (London): ‘It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t find it absorbing to read.’

Fred Howard (author of the major 1987 biography, ‘Wilbur and Orville’ ):
‘What a feast of words! I’ve spent 53 years immersed in the brothers’ story. In that time it has acquired a fixed, familiar surface. Your fresh look at it has blown the whole thing wide open. It will never be the same again.’

Birmingham Post: ‘ . . . a gifted storyteller, his biography keeps you on the edge of your seat, searching in vain for the seat-belt that the daring Wright Brothers never bothered with when they first conquered the skies.’

York Evening Press: ‘Mackersey’s authoritative style and penchant for research breaks through the myth surrounding the brothers. This is the definitive book on the Wright Brothers and the birth of powered flight.’

History Today:  'Mackersey constructs a narrative of considerable dramatic power.'
Aeroplane Monthly
:  A carefully compiled and well assembled work . . . meaty value for money.'

Oxford Times:  'Mackersey has reached for the sky in his prose to match the epic, offering as exciting a story as we are ever likely to get on those early years of flight.'