It isn’t often that a stick to the face alters the course of history. The course of a game, maybe. The course of someone’s dental profile, possibly. But history?
Well, according to Sean Braswell of the website ozy.com, there’s a good chance the story of modern aviation began “with an unfortunate incident during a game of hockey between teenagers on a frozen pond in Dayton, Ohio, in 1886.”
In a recent post on oxy.com titled ‘The Hockey Game That Changed Aviation History’, Braswell tells how one of the Wright brothers, Wilbur Wright, “was hit in the face with a hockey stick, a blow that broke his jaw and knocked out most of his upper front teeth.” The event, writes Braswell, “sent Wilbur’s life spiraling in a new direction.”
(The opponent who hit him, incidentally, became a serial murderer, eventually being sentenced to death and electrocuted after being found guilty of killing at least 16 people.)
Wright, an excellent student and multisport athlete, was 18 at the time and planning to attend Yale. But his injuries not only took months to heal, he also began suffering bouts of what Braswell describes as “severe depression.” In addition, his mother became mortally ill with tuberculosis and he stayed home to help take care of her. He never got to Yale — or any other college — and Braswell says it took “almost eight years for Wilbur to recover from the injuries he sustained.”
But in those years, writes Braswell, Wilbur “took advantage of his housebound existence to devour every book he could get his hands on, the beginning of a remarkable self-education that would fuel the rest of his life and career.” He became particularly interested in flight and, though he worked with his younger brother Orville (“a capable engineer but not a visionary”), it was Wilbur who “diligently studied birds, who played around with complex aeronautical data, who worked out the wing design that would allow humans to transcend gravity. It was Wilbur Wright who truly invented manned flight.”
It may be a stretch to say an Ogie Oglethorpe-style shot to the head led directly to mankind’s first airplane ride at Kitty Hawk, N.C., 17 years later. But it may — just may — have started Wilbur Wright on the path to unlocking the mystery of human flight, which had been vexing humans for centuries.
If you haven’t already done so, click through and read Braswell’s post. It’s fascinating.
Posted by Art Martone