Wilbur Wright, American aviator, c 1905.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photograph signed by Wilbur Wright, 18 December 1908. Wilbur (1867-1912) and his brother, Orville (1871-1948), were self-taught American aeroplane pioneers. They originally designed and built bicycles but changed their interest to flying, producing a controllable glider by 1902, and a year later the first aircraft, Flyer I. This was piloted by Orville on 17 Dec 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA, in the first powered and controlled aircraft flight. The Flyer III, built in 1905, was the first efficient plane and, by 1909, the American army had ordered a military version. They patented their flying machine and formed an aircraft production company in 1909.