Wright Notebooks

Photo of Notebook

If you could travel back in time to the autumn of 1901, you would find Wilbur and Orville Wright locked inside of their workshop in Dayton, Ohio, gathering scientific data about the forces of flight. For months, they repeated test after test, filling notebooks with their results.

Those notebooks are preserved in The Franklin Institute's collection of artifacts. The collection also includes numerous scraps of paper that they used to chart their data. Most fascinating are the pieces of wallpaper with numbers and vectors scribbled on the backside. Notice the date: September 1901.

The scrap was placed in the wind tunnel, beneath the balance, and used to note the action of airfoil number four (we conclude). When the wind hit the airfoil, the airfoil shifted position. The tracing recorded that position. Those shifts in position could then be compared for each airfoil shape and curvature.