Monday, December 21, 2015

It Took a Beekeeper

-Posted by Isaac

In that Outer Banks blog post I mentioned that we visited the Wright Brothers Memorial, and our children didn't find it quite as interesting as I did.

I can't say I blame them. There were waves and sand dunes calling out.
Come and Play! Come and Play!
We spent several hours with the Wright Brothers. And I couldn't get enough.

When it came time for the speaker to give a 50 minute presentation, I sat our family in the front row. We had to see and hear every single detail about the Wright flyer.

Well, that lasted all of 90 seconds.
Eden was having candy/ binky/ doll baby troubles (loudly). And as we were shuffling her toward the door, Bridger tripped and fell flat on his face. Things at this point really got loud. And embarrassing. The family made it out after much commotion and I'm thankful and indebted to my lovely wife for taking the kids for the next hour. She could see how badly I wanted to hear that talk.
I scooted and excused my way back in while about a hundred people glared at me.
It was well worth it.

A week later I was reading David McCullough.

And loving it.
Such a monumental achievement. Flight. Flight! Think about it. And just over a hundred years ago. This is not ancient history. Two young bicycle mechanics from Dayton turned the world on its head. Ohio boys. There were plenty of others working on the problem. And plenty of naysayers. There happened to be aeronautical "experts" funded by the government and the Smithsonian and wealthy private backers. They couldn't quite figure it out. They all lacked something the Wrights had. What was it?

Wilber and Orville carried their large glider up this hill over a thousand times:

Three years of gliding. As Wilber said, "becoming intimate with the wind."
At some point they realized that flight was a real possibility. And still the naysayers trumpeted.

I love this:
..."In no way did any of this discourage or deter Wilbur and Orville Wright, any more than the fact that they had had no college education, no formal technical training, no experience working with anyone other than themselves, no friends in high places, no financial backers, no government subsidies, and little money of their own."

Working in relative obscurity, the Wrights overcame years of hardship and hundreds of failures. By the end of 1903 they had mounted an engine on their glider and were taking the first tentative steps toward powered flight. December 17th was the glorious day that it actually happened.

They needed the winds and dunes of Kitty Hawk to practice their gliding. North Carolina still lays claim to this world changing moment.

But back in Ohio, 1904, things really started rolling. The Wrights picked out a field just north of Dayton to perfect their flying machine. You'd think this would garner a lot of attention. I mean, it was sort of a big deal. But no... the Wrights didn't want or need the attention. They avoided it. Reporters didn't come out, nobody took pictures, and the stories that did make their way around were fabricated, inflated and unbelievable. On the whole, the Wrights and their "flying machine" were dismissed as a lie.
They didn't have YouTube in 1904.
So here's the surprising beekeeping connection. Rumors of this miracle flying machine did finally spread enough to tweak the interest of one A.I. Root in Medina OH. Anyone in the bee world knows who this guy is-- founder of the Root beekeeping supply company and Bee Culture magazine.
 Root was interested enough in the flying rumors to drive across the state to Dayton and see for himself. He was so amazed, he made the drive again a few months later. In 1904 this was no small task. Again, he was awestruck.
And he broke it to the world:

The bee world, that is.

Scientific American? Popular Science magazine? Smithsonian? Dayton Daily News? Washington Post? TIME? Newsweek?
Nope, nobody but Mr. A.I. Root with his little bee magazine thought that the achievement of human powered flight might just deserve a published mention.

Bee Culture Magazine was the first published account! Wow!

By the end of the decade of course, a few others had taken notice. The Wright brothers were famous celebrated inventors everywhere they went. Parades and accolades and prestige the world around.

Funny how it took a beekeeper to notice.

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