Hallion, 2003

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Richard P. Hallion. Taking Flight: Inventing the Aerial Age from Antiquity through the First World War. Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-19-516035-5

Overview:

The vantage point of a century after the invention of the airplane offers a valuable opportunity to reconsider how flight began, in a far broader and larger context than previously. Basically, the invention of flight represented the culmination of centuries of thought and desire. [...]
It is time to reassess and reexamine the early history of flight, address commonly held beliefs, determine what was and was not accomplished by the early pioneers, trace the "transfer" of experiment and practice into what might be called the "operational art" of aviation, and analyze its impact on the course of subsequent history. (xix)

Hallion puts the Wright Brothers as foremost but not alone. Thesis statements in the introduction include:

Let it be clearly understood that the Wrights, and no one else, invented the airplane. But they did not invent it in isolation. [...]
Most assuredly, the Wrights did not teach the world to fly, for by the time the Wrights demonstrated their aircraft in public (in 1908 and 1909), the French were already flying basic designs by Blériot, Farman, and Levavasseur that would place them well ahead of the United States within two years. (xvii)

Small bones picked with Hallion at articles La France and James Means.