The Wright Brothers {Review & Suggestions}

They were unique. They stood apart in history. They were persistent. They provided the world with the solution to heavier-than-air flight. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough is their story as told by a master storyteller.

This #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.

The Wright brothers had the benefit of a strong family, strong faith, and an insatiable curiosity. Wilbur’s interests, for example, ranged from music to art, architecture, geography, literature, and writing — among others. Though different in temperament and nature they rarely had disagreements and were an inspiration to others in character.

What the two had in common above all was unity of purpose and unyielding determination. They had set themselves on a “mission.”

In fact, The Wright Brothers is an excellent character study as it traces their course from owners of a bicycle business to the:

  • Interest in gliders.
  • Avid bird watching that provided the fodder for real flight.
  • Hardships and challenges at Kitty Hawk.
  • Ignorance and derision of the press.
  • Disappointments.
  • Oversight.
  • Unsolicited “help.”
  • Incredible calm in the midst of incredible pressure.
  • International sensation and acknowledgement.
  • Crash that killed a man and severely injured Orville.
  • Friends.
  • Foes.
  • Lawsuits.
  • Final acknowledgement of their contribution to flight.

The lives of the Wright brothers intersected with the lives of many other famous inventors, businessmen, and personalities. For example, their engine block was made from lightweight aluminum provided by the up-and-coming Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa).

The Wright Brothers is a very accessible book and should be required reading for high school students. But don’t be afraid to read the book aloud to your younger students!

Years later, a friend told Orville that he and his brother would always stand as an example of how far Americans with no special advantages could advance in the world. “But it isn’t true,” Orville responded emphatically, “to say we had no special advantages…the greatest thing in our favor was growing up in a family where there was always much encouragement to intellectual curiosity.”

We have added The Wright Brothers to the Wright brothers portion of our free science studies.

  • Create a timeline showing the major events in the the Wright brothers’ path to flight.
  • There are numerous locations mentioned where the Wright brothers’ airplanes were tested and flown, both in America and abroad. Map these locations.
  • The leaders in flight are mentioned. Make a chart (or timeline) showing each along with his contribution.
  • Create character sketch for either Orville or Wilbur Wright.
  • There are hundreds of quotes in the book that would be considered “inspirational.” Choose one with meaning for you, copy it, and illustrate it on drawing and writing paper.
  • Write a summary (or written narration) of the story of the Wright brothers.
  • Create an author page for David McCullough.

Additional Resources
Free Science Studies: Orville & Wilbur Wright

Free Science Studies: Orville & Wilbur Wright
You’ll find tons of background information, video clips, interactive activities, crafts, unit studies, and printables in our free science studies based on the book Great Inventors and Their Inventions.

How It Flies {Free eBook}

How It Flies {Free eBook}
Includes developments in flight beginning with mythological machines to da Vinci’s sketches and attempts at flight, through gliders, monoplanes, and biplanes. You’ll also find many other resources on this page.

Create a website or blog at