Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) and Orville Wright (1871-1948) were two of America’s greatest inventors and brothers, first and foremost. They were the first humans to successfully achieve flight, but were also known in their time as honest men who didn’t care about wealth or renown.

Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright were born on a small farm near Millville, Indiana, in the United States of America. Their education and careers were so similar that even though Orville lived 36 years longer than Wilbur, they were always mentioned together.

Both brothers went to high school but never obtained their diplomas.

After leaving school, they devoted themselves to the invention of airplane engines and made the first flight in human history on December 17, 1903, at the Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. They each flew that day. After this test was successful, Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright became famous around the world.

Although they became celebrities, both of them did not think much of the reputation they gained through the newspapers. Instead, they continued to work hard on  improving their designs, rather than promoting themselves and their achievements.

While their presence at banquets and galas around the country was highly sought after, they politely declined these invitations. Rather than courting reporters, they had in fact chosen Kitty Hawk because of the privacy provided by its remote location.

Once, a reporter asked Wilbur Wright to share a few words about the brothers’ distaste for publicity. The humble Wilbur said, “Sir! As you know, parrots love to sing, but they can’t fly high.”

Wilbur Wright’s words are as profound as they are humorous. If a person is always humble and can learn to live without fame and attention, they will always be peaceful, calm, and relaxed. When a person can deal with the complexities of life while remaining true to themselves and their principles, they will always triumph.

Wilbur, left, and Orville Wright sit on the porch steps of their Dayton, Ohio, home in June 1909. (Wikimedia Commons {{PD-old}})

There’s an excellent story that is quite possibly the best way to understand the simplicity and honesty of the Wright brothers.

Once, Orville Wright was dining with his sister. In the middle of the meal, Orville stopped eating and conveniently pulled a red ribbon out of his pocket to wipe his mouth. His sister immediately asked, “Where did you get that beautiful handkerchief?”

Orville Wright said, neglectfully: “Oh! This is the glorious medal that the French Government granted me. I didn’t have a handkerchief  before, so now I use this instead.”

Orville’s attitude shows us what is really important in life. Fame and money will last but a short while, whereas the Wright Brothers will be remembered forever for giving humanity what it had only ever dreamed of.

Those who want to fly in this life should follow their example.


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