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Science and Technology

The Edwardian era is described by one author as "the dawning of the age of material novelties, heard in the clatter of the telegraph, the jingle of the telephone and the cacophony of the first mass-produced typewriters, experienced in the eerie feeling of ascent on the first elevator rides, the dazzling aura of electric light, and the new, democratic mobility of the bicycle." The Edwardian era was a period of incredible scientific and technological progress. The first motion pictures were developed from the technological advances of inventors such as Thomas Edison and Louis and August Lumiere. The era also ushered in the first mass-produced automobiles such as Henry Ford's Model T. Among the inventions of the Edwardian era are such modern conveniences such as the vacuum cleaner, air conditioner, fire extinguisher, household detergent, cellophane, synthetic ammonia, neon lighting, diesel locomotive, stainless steel, brassiere, tear gas, AM radio, SONAR, electric food mixer, and the refridgerator. In addition, discoveries made during the era include amino acids, Vitamins A and D, hormones, radium, quantum theory, relativity theory, genetic heredity, atomic structure, superconductivity and x-ray diffraction.

In 1903, the Wright Brothers made their ground-breaking first flight in North Carolina. Orville and Wilbur Wright were sons of a minister in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ and his wife. As youngsters, the brothers looked to their mother for mechanical expertise and their father for intellectual challenges. Their father brought the boys various trinkets he found during his travels for the church. One such trinket, a toy helicopter-like top, sparked their interest in flying. As young men, the brothers started their own printing firm and referred to themselves for the first time as the "Wright Brothers." They later started their own bicycle repair business in 1893, and made their own bicycles called Van Cleves and St. Clairs. Their interest in flying was renewed in 1896, when Wilbur read about the death of a famous German glider pilot. Soon afterward, Wilbur began reading everything that had been published in aeronautical research to date.

Before long, Wilbur had defined the elements of a flying machine: wings to provide lift, a power source for propulsion, and a system of control. Of the early aviators, only Wilbur recognized the need to control a flying machine in three axes of motion: pitch, roll, and yaw. His solution to the problem of control was 'wing warping.' He also developed a revolutionary system by twisting an empty bicycle tube box with the ends removed. In August of 1900, Wilbur built his first glider, and immediately contacted the U.S. Weather Bureau for information on windy regions of the country. Reviewing the list, he chose a remote sandy area off the coast of North Carolina named Kitty Hawk, where winds averaged 13 miles per hour. He and Orville then journeyed to Kitty Hawk where they tested a a number of gliders. After achieving success with their gliders, the brothers set to building a "flying machine." Having designed a propeller with the same principles they used to design their wings, Wilbur and Orville then built their own 4-cylinder, 12-horsepower engine. On December 14, 1903, Wilbur won a coin toss and made the first attempt to fly the machine. He stalled it on take-off, causing some minor damage. The plane was repaired, and Orville made the next attempt on December 17. At 10:35 a.m., he made the first heavier-than-air, machine powered flight in the world. In a flight lasting only 12 seconds and covering just 120 feet, Orville achieved their dream of flight.