Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Wind Beneath HIS Wings -- A "Theme Thursday" Post


Otto Lilienthal

Something a bit different today.

In his hit song "Kodachrome," Paul Simon referred to "all the crap I learned in high school," but I learned my "crap" a few years earlier. The more I learn about history -- both the "World" and "U.S." varieties -- the more I realize that the so-called "history" lessons I was subjected to in grammar school were largely a waste of time. I hadn't even made my way through high school before I learned that the "truth" about Christopher Columbus and the "truth" about the Pilgrims that landed in my own state of Massachusetts was mostly b.s.

And in the thirty-five years since my high school graduation, I've learned a few other, equally disconcerting things, as well.

I was told about the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, and how they invented the airplane and conducted the first successful manned flights (not counting guys who'd "gone up" in hot-air balloons).

And whenever they talked about the Wright brothers, the teachers spoke of previous, unsuccessful flights made by others... notably, how some idiot named Otto Lilienthal leaped off a cliff and fell to his death, much like the urban legends of those kids who tied towels around their necks and leaped off roofs in emulation of Superman. He'd built some kind of glider, evidently... We never got the details. But somehow, this guy Lilienthal became famous just for that one jump of his which sent him unceremoniously to the ground? Poor sucker.

Personally, I always pictured some nut flying too close to the sun with his wax-coated wings, like the mythological Icarus.

Well, Otto, we hardly knew ye (to screw up an old expression).

If you want the tip of the proverbial iceberg in regards to the "real truth," you can start here. But if you don't want to learn any more than what I'm willing to impart personally, chew on this:

The reason Otto Lilienthal was mentioned in my history classes was that he'd received quite a bit of fame before he was mortally wounded in his famous glider crash. He was a true, respected aviation pioneer, having made roughly two thousand successful glider flights prior to his final attempt! In fact, the Wright brothers themselves learned a lot from his writings.

And needless to say, modern-day hang-gliding aficionados owe him a debt of thanks for his experiments, as well.

So thinking of him as some kind of "idiot" or "nut" would be tantamount to calling Dale Earnhardt the same simply because of how he met his end.

Lilienthal aloft.

"All the crap I learned," indeed!

Thanks for your time.

29 comments:

  1. A quick note to all of the Theme Thursday bloggers: My blog-reading time is going to be severely limited today! Please leave a comment for me, and I promise I'll get to all of your blogs tomorrow or ASAP!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Myths and legends...

    Great post, Foxy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you just gotta try. He was certainly well trained enough to have a shot at making it work. Sucky lucky.

    ReplyDelete
  4. sounds like the story of Tesla as well. i wondeer was he happy that they could build on his work, even though they got the fame?

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Silver Fox: Mythbuster! I like it! If only we'd had Snopes back then when we were listening to the "authorities".

    I love that Paul Simon song, by the way.

    Kat

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi,good to know about that

    have a nice day :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. What an absolutely WONDERFUL image. A great great informative post. I'll read more on Lilenthal later. Thanks for provoking some interest.

    ReplyDelete
  8. History is always limited by the writers who are writing it and the teachers who are teaching it.

    Good informative post.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love especially that last photo. Very poignant.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hmm, maybe we should remove "Birthplace of Aviation" from our license plates here in Ohio?

    LOVE that fabulous photo!

    ReplyDelete
  11. All the teachers learned the 'crap' when they were children, so of course they pass the myths on to the next generation. Perhaps teachers-to-be should be required to take courses in critical thinking. Come to think of it, we could all use courses like that - maybe in Grade One, before we absorb too much crap.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Well, we all got to learn something today, too, from you! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Guess we never really know things for sure. It's guesswork, especially when it's history...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for putting down in writing every single feeling I had while learning history in high-school as well! How many fights I had with my history teacher because I couldn't understand...how can we see Alexander as "great"?! I mean he was a man who went to war for more land and expansion!! What's so great about that?

    Thank you and happy TT
    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for the lesson.... great picture... Valerie

    ReplyDelete
  16. Cool...we were also told that Ford invented the car...not even close.

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's pretty interesting. Thanks for the history lesson! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hmmm . .I'd never heard of him frankly but thought the Wright Brothers got their claim to fame because they were the first to partake of motorised flight? Interesting stuff tho. I'm that teensy weensy bit smarter for reading this! Cheers :) *wonders if DaVinci ever got wind beneath his wings*

    ReplyDelete
  19. People have a tendency to forget that 'history' is always told and filtered through subjective filters.

    ReplyDelete
  20. paul simon would be proud...thanks for the education--best c

    ReplyDelete
  21. To all: While researching this post, I found several photos of Lilienthal's flights, but the one I used seemed to best capture the fact that he was soaring through the air, with presumably awed spectators below, no less. Glad it seemed to hit the right note with all of you, as well.

    Baino: You're correct in saying that "the Wright Brothers got their claim to fame because they were the first to partake of motorised flight" (emphasis mine), of course... but their earlier experiments involved various gliders and had relied heavily on Lilienthal's notes.

    Marianna: In all fairness to the majority of my teachers, I feel that the educational system in the town I grew up in was just fine, overall.

    Having said that... Sometimes, some of these people seemed to be making it up as they went along.

    I'll never forget the grammar school teacher who went into great detail about why the word "nigger" was so offensive. He said that the so-called "N" word sprang from "niggardly," which meant stingy and miserly, and even as a fifth-grader, I remember thinking, "Yeah? So? And what's so terrible about calling someone stingy and miserly?" Further thought in my young mind made me ask "And why would people call slaves stingy and miserly anyway? What did they have to be stingy and miserly about? They couldn't even own property; legally, they were property."

    It just didn't make sense.

    Of course, a few years later, when I learned -- in Latin class -- that the Latin word for "black" was "niger" with one "g"... Well, at least I'd learned where the word truly originated.

    Okay, okay, end of rant...

    ReplyDelete
  22. ...not counting guys who'd "gone up" in hot air balloons; ya think? And to think DaVinci was that close to flight developement...oh wait, he was! I never studied Lilienthal (guess our ciriculum was even more watered down, than yours ). Now I know! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I love learning about 'history' and what really happened. As pointed out to me long ago, 'the truth is in the eye of the winner.'

    ReplyDelete
  24. haha. cool. the crap we learn in school includes all that crap in Mathematics about not being able to subtract 10 from 5, then eventually you learn about negative numbers. bah! :p

    I'd love to learn how to glide though. looks exhilarating. :D

    ReplyDelete
  25. It truly is a great "aloft" photo! Thanks for the intelligence, SF!

    ReplyDelete
  26. This is the Thursday history lesson. I guess Lilienthal was a guy who took a leap of faith.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Getting To Write The History Books Is one of the Perks of Winning The Battle?

    ReplyDelete
  28. That is usually the way it goes with history. If you want the truth about things, both past and present, stay the hell away from the books and track it down on your own. :)

    ReplyDelete

I strongly urge you to sign up for follow-up comments, because I (usually) reply to your comment!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails