Orville Wright's Central High School diploma

It’s back to school time!

Orville and Wilbur Wright’s father Milton was born in a log cabin in 1828. This fact alone might lead one to think the Wright family did not place a premium on “book learning.” Not so. Milton studied hard and attended a small college in Indiana, going on to a career as a minister and newspaper editor. Milton’s zeal for learning was passed down to the boys and they were both good students.

However, due to the family travel schedule, Wilbur missed his high school graduation ceremony in Richmond, Indiana so, technically, he did not graduate from high school. Wilbur and his family felt the actual education he had received was far more important than having a diploma handed to him. As evidence of his passion for learning, after completing high school in Richmond, Wilbur took a special trigonometry class at the Dayton, Ohio high school the following year.

Orville was a good student as well, but also did not formally graduate high school. As the Wright brothers fame grew some who knew of their relatively humble educational backgrounds suggested they owed their success to not going to college, which might have “ruined” them. Orville never bought into that theory, insisting their scientific work would have progressed all the more quickly had they received the benefit of a college education.

So, while schooling benefitted the Wright brothers, and more would have been welcome, it is also important not to overlook the things they learned at home. Orville is quoted as saying “…we were lucky enough to grow up in a home environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity. In a different kind of environment our curiosity might have been nipped long before it could have borne fruit.” Sounds like our kind of home: a place to “Invent yourself.”

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