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The Wright Brothers, some pretenders to the throne, and patents

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 18, 2003

The Wright Brothers, some pretenders to the throne, and patents. This is very high quality writing.

Reader comments

Stefan JonesDec 19, 2003 at 2:19AM

That was very good.

I recently read a bio of Tesla. Too, too much misunderstood-genius-prophet stuff, but if you read between the lines you get a picture of another obsessive brilliant loon who, like the Wrights, spent an awful lot of time and money worrying about patents. And like the Wrights, seems to have run out of genuine innovative juices early. Never believed quantum theory or modern EM theory.

James RobertsDec 19, 2003 at 8:15AM

I may be way off the mark here, but I would have assumed that the Montgolfier brothers would be credited with the first manned flight - in a hot air balloon.

I know I’m missing the point of the article all together, but the third paragraph does mention that the first manned flight was made by Richard Pearse. Perhaps human “flight” only refers to aviation.

Bernardo CarvalhoDec 19, 2003 at 8:53AM

The paragraph about Santos-Dumont is offensive. Yes, brazilians are taught in school that he invented flight, and never even heard of the Wright Brothers. It’s not our fault, it’s just written like that in history books around here. Yes, he was a rich playboy, but he did put his money to some good use, being a fine engineer and making several nice technological advances. But calling him a “one-man freak-show” and insulting one of the few good multinational brazilian companies (Embraer) just to make a point is really, really insulting to say the least. No, Jason - this is very bad writing.

Maciej CeglowskiDec 19, 2003 at 9:24AM

I don’t know why you read the mention of Embraer as an insult - it’s a wonderful airplane company, and I mention it as a playful jab at all the Brazilian huffiness about Santos-Dumont being the “Father of Aviation”. The 14-bis he flew looks like it was glued together out of lampshades - so obviously the road to Embraer leads through Dayton.

As for characterizing Santos-Dumont as a freak show - well, that’s not meant to be perjorative, either. Try “lovable eccentric” if you like that better. Certainly a fascinating man, five hundred times more colorful than either Wright brother.

DavidDec 19, 2003 at 12:25PM

if companies like IBM, Xerox, and Sun were to begin fully enforcing their patent portfolios, it would mean an apocalypse of litigation for all software developers.

At what point do Xerox and Sun’s rights to those patents outweigh the general concern for other software developments, particularly in the context of both companies distressed financial situations?

tj hookerDec 19, 2003 at 7:02PM

James: I had the same reaction for a while too, but then I realized that the Montgolfier brothers would be credited with lighter than air flight; the “who made it first” issue here is in regards to flying machines that are heavier than air.

caio cesarDec 20, 2003 at 8:11AM

i couldn’t agree more with bernardo’s comments on this.
it’s really bad to know the rotten image about all pioneers that are not american (or the wright bros. specifically).
it offended me as brazilian what this piece says about the brazilian pioneer and embraer (witch is one of the best aircraft manufacturers in the world).
very, very, very bad and narrow conditioned mind writing.

ewanDec 20, 2003 at 9:44PM

i can only hope this article was a parody. it’s as funny as listening to americans saying they won WW2 single-handedly.

Paul MurrayDec 21, 2003 at 9:54PM

Yes, “one-man freak-show” was a poor choice of words. Let’s all agree on that and move on, because aside from that, I think it’s a very good piece. (And he gives credit for his sources; I wish that wasn’t so unusual on the net.)

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.