Free Science Studies: Orville & Wilbur Wright

Orville and Wilbur Wright were American businessmen, inventors, and aviation pioneers best known for their invention of the first successful airplane.

Read the following:

“Other Famous Inventors of To-Day: Orville and Wilbur Wright”


Two sons of a Dayton, Ohio, minister — Orville and Wilbur Wright — took time out from their work as bicycle-builders and began experiments with gliders. Discarding most of the Lilienthal and Chanute ideas, they built a medium-size glider that flew successfully at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1900. In 1901, they returned to North Carolina with a larger and much improved glider, which was highly praised for its excellent engineering by Octave Chanute.

The Wright brothers, however, were not satisfied. Returning to Ohio, they built a quite modern wind tunnel in which they could test each part of the plan separately. They went back to the Kitty Hawk dunes the following spring with the largest glider ever built. Measuring 32 feet across the wing and weighing 116 pounds, this plane was flown successfully on more than 1,000 flights during September and October 1902.

During the winter that followed, Orville and Wilbur Wright worked on an engine for their plane and, in September 1903, they returned to Kitty Hawk to divide their time between work on the powered Wright Flyer and flights with the previous year’s glider. When they finally flew the powered plane — on December 17, 1903 — the Wright brothers realized a dream that men of all nations had shared for many centuries….

In the beginning few people believed reports of the Kitty Hawk flight. It remained for the Wrights to make a number of flights in England before any real interest in heavier-than-air flying machines gripped the world. In 1905 the Wright plane remained aloft for more than a half-hour while covering twenty-four and a half miles. By 1908 the great new invention had demonstrated its ability to stay in the air for two hours and more. A year later, the United States Army purchased a Wright biplane — and this marked the birth of military air power.

“Riders on the Wind” from The Book of Knowledge

Further Investigation

The Race for Heavier-Than-Air Flight
A ThinkQuest covering flight including the Wright Brothers (click Next at the bottom).

The Wright Brothers
Simple biography from The  HenryFord museum.

Orville and Wilbur Wright
Biographies at MIT.

How We Made First Flight
Read Orville Wright’s account.

The First Five Flights
This 2002 publication at looks at which one of the Wright brothers made the “first” flight. It is great reading simply for the information and photos of the events.

Wright Brothers: First Flight 1903
An eyewitness account at

The Wright Brothers: Chronology
Timeline from The Henry Ford museum.

First Flight: The History of Flight
Timeline of early flights at The Open University.

Wilbur and Orville Wright Timeline
Complete timeline at the Library of Congress.


The Case Files: Orville Wright
Franklin Institute interactive look at “the art and science of aviation.”

Engineering the Wright Way
Excellent interactive from the Smithsonian where you engineer the Wright’s plane.

Airplane Anatomy
Interactive from the Smithsonian where you assemble the 1903 flyer.

First Flight: The Wright Brothers
Fly the Wright brothers’ 1903 flyer in this interactive at The Open University. Use the menu at the bottom to access all of the Wright brothers’ interactives.

Pilot the 1903 Flyer
Simple PBS interactive that helps students understand how the flyer was controlled.

The Wright Brothers
Online interactive Smithsonian exhibition in timeline form covering the Wrights, inventing a flying machine, and the aerial age.

1902 Wright Brothers Glider Model Instructions
Build your own from NASA.

How Things Fly {Featured Site}

How Things Fly {Featured Site}
To extend studies on flight.

Wright Brothers 2003 Game
Interactive game from NASA that tests students knowledge. Great for wrapping up.

Wright Brothers Activity Book
Free download at the FAA with background information and games.

Interactive Timeline Maker {Free}
Use this interactive at to create a timeline showing the major events in the Wright brothers’ lives or major advances in flight.

The Glorious Flight

The Glorious Flight by Alic Provensen
Subtitled Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot, recounts the Frenchman’s efforts to build a play to fly across the English Channel. Excellent picture book and highly recommended!

Airborne: A Photobiography of Wilbur and Orville Wright by Mary Collins
Excellent biography from National Geographic and a family favorite.

The Early History of the Airplane by Orville and Wilbur Wright
Told in their own words, includes The Wright Brothers’ Aeroplane, How We Made the First Flight & Some Aeronautical Experiments.

First Flight: The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Airplane by Tom D. Crouch
Beautiful book that includes the account above and much more in a richly illustrated version. Also available as a public domain download. Read our full review with download options.

The Wright Brothers {Review & Suggestions}

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
#1 New York Times bestseller by a two-time Pulitzer winner describes the chronological story of the Wright brothers’ fascination and conquering of flight from their humble beginnings to the world’s acknowledgment of their contribution. Highly recommended! Read our full review and suggestions for using the book.

The Wright Brothers ~ Free eBook
This authorized biography reads like a story. Great addition to your study!

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Learning to Fly: The Wright Brothers’ Adventure
Excellent 177-page guide for educators and students from that includes background information and 23 activities exploring aeronautics with a focus on the Wright brothers.

Wright Brothers’ Flying Machine
Teacher’s Guide from NOVA that goes with the show, but can be used alone. Includes paper airplane flyer to test.

On the Wright Brothers’ Flight Path
Simple activity book from the Smithsonian that looks at the various Wright brother planes.

Unit Study on Flight {Free}
Free unit study covering flight from kites to space travel including the Wright brothers.

Wright Brothers National Memorial
Lesson plans from the National Park Service for older students that use primary source documents to examine the challenges the Wright brothers faced, why they chose the locations for flight that they did, their accomplishments, and more.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

United States Map
At for locating Ohio and North Carolina.

Ohio State Map
Map for locating Dayton.

North Carolina State Map
Map for locating Kitty Hawk.

1903 Flyer
Diagram for notebook at

First Flight
Photo for notebook at

Orville & Wilbur Wright Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the entire series:
Free Science Studies: Great Inventors & Their Inventions
Free Science Studies: Great Inventors & Their Inventions

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