Wright Brothers: Powered their way to posterity
Controversy about man's first flight has swirled around the facts like a desert dust devil. Was Orville and Wilbur Wright's flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903 the first manned flight of a heavier-than-air powered plane? Until 1942, the Smithsonian Institute denied it, claiming that Samuel Langley was the first -- the same Langley who was the Smithsonian's secretary at the time. The title may have actually belonged to Gustav Weisskopf, a Bavarian immigrant who flew his powered airplane 800 meters (2,624 feet) in 1901. Although witnessed by reporters for several newspapers, including the New York Herald, it was not well-documented. Given the Smithsonian's support of Langley, with the Wright brothers as deuteragonists, historians have largely ignored Weisskopf's accomplishment. The Wright brothers, typically lumped together as a single unit, were as different from each other as they were alike. Orville was more genial, with a head for business; Wilbur, with falcon-like eyes, was the genius behind the science.