December 17, 1903, achieving the once-unheard-of feat of powered flight the Wright brothers flew into history. Although debated, the accomplishment is globally accepted as the first flight of its kind. While the Wrights earned a place in the spotlight as daring aviators, one key figure is often overlooked: mechanician Charles Taylor.
There is a fantastic book, Charles E. Taylor: 1868-1956 The Wright Brothers Mechanician, by H. R. DuFour with Peter J. Unitt, currently out of print. The text has a foot in two worlds, part biography and part technical manual. DuFour led a colorful life, working on the Manhattan Project in Chicago during World War II helping to develop the atomic bomb.
As with many of us, the aeronautical spark ignited early for DuFour. According to A Dream Fulfilled: The Replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer at Wright State University by Peter Unitt, DuFour noticed a photograph of the Wright Flyer on the wall of Detroit Technical High School, beginning a lifelong interest in the Wright brothers and Taylor. DuFour continued to educate people about Taylor until his death in 2009.
Quick show of hands, how many of you already knew the term “mechanician”? The Oxford English Dictionary defines mechanician as “a person skilled in the design or construction of machinery.” This term is commonly shortened to “mechanic.” Another quick show of hands: who votes we go back to the term “mechanician”? It has a certain ring to it.