I just finished David McCullough’s new book on the Wright Brothers. While McCullough is a wonderful storyteller, he does tend to paint a rosy picture of his biographical subjects. John Adams, in particular, came off much better than he looks if you read the accounts of his contemporaries.
I think that the same is true in this book. The narrative ends in 1909 with the Wright Brothers winning acclaim around the world. There is an Epilogue that describes what happened afterwards, but what that leaves out is the fact that the Wrights (and then only Orville after Wilbur died in 1912) spent the next several years engaged in patent litigation. From the secondary literature on that part of the story, one gets the impression that the Wrights were prickly about asserting their originality in achieving flight and were not that open to collaboration. This helps explain why the United States fell behind Europe in aeronautics, which the government addressed in 1917 by creating (or coercing) a patent pool for airplanes. It’s a cautionary tale for patents and their relationship to innovation.