On Dec 17, it will be 100 years since the first flight undertaken by the Wright brothers. Forbes has a special series of articles celebrating 100 years of flight.
One of the Forbes articles looks at about how a few years elapsed before “the world discovered the Wright brothers.”
One hundred years ago, on Dec. 17, 1903, a flying machine carrying Orville Wright rose from the dunes of Kitty Hawk, N.C., and landed 12 seconds later and 120 feet away. Orville and his older brother Wilbur made two other flights that day, the longest being 852 feet. It was the first time in history that a machine carrying a man had lifted from the earth, moved forward under its own power, maintained control in the air, and landed at a point as high as that from which it started. The world could not have cared less.
Build a better mousetrap, they say, and the world will beat a path to your door. That didn’t happen to the Wright brothers. Most people at the time still considered heavier-than-air flight the province of deluded dreamers, especially after the highly public attempts by Samuel Langley, the director of the Smithsonian Institution, to fly his own machine, which ended in spectacular failure that autumn.
Word about the Wright brothers circulated amongst flying enthusiasts, especially in France. But it was not until 1908, five years later, that the general public hailed the Wright brothers as the fathers of flight.
This continues to be true with invention and innovation – it takes time for the world to recgonise the benefits of something that is path-breaking. We are used to thinking incrementally, and so find it hard to recognise disruptive innovations until much later.