To Conquer the Air

To Conquer the Air

The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight

By James Tobin

Free Press, Paperback, 9780743255363, 448pp.

Publication Date: May 3, 2004


Award-winning author James Tobin has at last penned the definitive account of the inspiring and impassioned race across ten years and two continents to conquer the air. For years, Wilbur Wright and his younger brother, Orville, experimented in obscurity, supported only by their exceptional family. Meanwhile, the world watched as Samuel Langley, armed with a contract from the U.S. War Department and all the resources of the Smithsonian Institution, sought to create the first manned flying machine. But while Langley saw flight as a problem of power, the Wrights saw a problem of balance. Thus their machines took two very different paths--Langley's toward oblivion, the Wrights' toward the heavens--though not before facing countless other obstacles.
With a historian's accuracy and a novelist's eye, Tobin has captured an extraordinary moment in history. To Conquer the Air is itself a heroic achievement.

About the Author
James Tobin won the National Book Critics Circle Award for his first book, "Ernie Pyle's War, " and the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for "To Conquer the Air." Twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism, he holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan.

Praise For To Conquer the Air

Chicago Sun-Times

Tobin is interested as much in the personalities of Orville and Wilbur Wright as he is in the technical aspects of their feat. And he outlines their lives with style and brio.


A magnificent book about magnificent men.

The Seattle Times

Fabulous...fascinating...A tale about the triumph of sweat and labor over might and money. It's hard to think of a better book to bring next time one climbs aboard an airplane.