Jakab, Peter L. Visions of a Flying Machine : The Wright Brothers and the Process of Invention, Smithsonian History of Aviation Series. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990.


“This study has focused on the creative process that resulted in mechanical flight… a definable inventive method (led to)… a workable technological system capable of flight” (216).

NOTE: This book is not a hard read but the main thesis is buried.

THE QUESTION: "How did these two men, essentially alone, accomplish so quickly, and with such sophistication, what had eluded a great many others for so long?" (stated twice xv, 217).

THE ANSWER: the "inventive method". Inventive method is mentioned in the first sentence and then not expressly again until page 81t (thus slightly buried). The inventive method is mentioned in five key places (1, 81t, 198t, 217, 218). For further confirmation consider the sub-title of the book: “the process of invention” (this phrase also on xiii).


1. The 1902 glider--not the flyers--represents the “inventive solutions” to “fundamental problems,” and thus the “original thinking” (216-17) of the “inventive method” (216).

2. This inventive method is: “a number of innate talents and personality traits that were especially conducive to technical creativity” (218, see also 81, 198). Thirteen talents and traits are included in the author's index.

1) Bicycle cross-over into aeronautical SA (7, 9-10, 50-52, 75, 81, 95-96).
2) Observing birds (52) like other enthusiasts such as Cayley (32) and Lilienthal (33).
3) Kiting for flight test discovery (167).
4) Boyhood experiences with the toy helicopter (39).
5) Collaborative personality traits (10-12).
6) Education (2-3).
7) An engineering approach (think Vincenti) (1-2, 80-81, 124-125).
8) Emphasis on continuity of design (5).
9) Mechanical aptitude (6-7).
10) Transferring existing technology (propulsion work 192-193, 198).
11) Inventive traits (described holistically in pgs 1-17, 192-193, 216-17).
12) Spiritual fortitude (164).
13) Vision as “mental visualization” and “non-verbal thoughts” (4, 81-82).
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.