Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wilbur and Orville's 105th

December 17 was the 105th anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight. Though a local reporter wrote about the story, it took some months for governments to show interest. In September 1908, while Wilberr was in Europe, Orville demonstrated his plane for the US Army. Despite a crash which killed an observer and severely injured Orville, the Army would buy its first plane in June 1909. In 1911 the US Navy purchased its first aircraft, signalling the start of Naval Aviation. In the Great War of 1914-1918 aeroplanes played an important role. Today flight in aeroplanes is so commonplace as to be a nuisance.

In 1905 a patent clerk named Einstein had performed the amazing feat of publishing 4 groundbreaking papers in a very short time. If a sympathetic Max Planck had not been editor, Einstein might not have published. The first reaction was a deafening silence--by 1908 few had heard of Einstein. (During 1908 and 1909 Einstein had a fascinating disagreement with Walter Ritz on the time arrows of electrodynamics and entropy.) In 1911 Einstein would finally get an academic appointment. Not until 1919 and Eddington's eclipse expedition would Einstein become a celebrity.

We hope that in 100 years the achievements of today, like aircraft and Space flight, become commonplace.



Blogger alkkemist said...

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Blogger CarlBrannen said...

Louise, I just finished reading a fascinating book "Liaison 1914", which is devoted to the first 5 weeks of the first world war. It was written by Edward Spears, who was a liaison officer between the French and British armies. He was more important in the second world war.

The book gives a wonderful description of what it was like to be on army staff during the mobile part of that war. The book makes it very clear that even the primitive aircraft of 1914 were incredibly important in the war effort. I'm sure you'd enjoy it.

I used to think of staff officers as having a relatively easy time but not any more. One of the French generals, on taking over command of one of the French armies, told the staff that in the event of work that was lazy or stupid from them, he would have the perpetrator shot. Apparently, threatening to have officers shot was not an uncommon thing at that time.

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