Orville Wright (with the help of his brother Wilbur, of course) is generally credited with inventing the airplane, thanks to the famous Kitty Hawk flight of Dec. 17, 1903.
On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager officially broke through the Sound Barrier flying a Bell X-1 rocket plane. Three months later, Orville Wright passed away at the age of seventy-six.
Orville Wright lived to see Supersonic Flight! He puttered that first “airplane” into the air for 12 seconds and 120 feet, ushering in a new age of human transportation. I wonder if he ever imagined that he’d see a rocket break the speed of sound in his remaining lifetime. Not to mention that only 21 years later a man would walk on the moon.
So few of us will ever make such leaps in our lives to be singled-out like the Wright brothers. But a much smaller set will get to personally witness their contributions change the shape of mankind.
Maybe the pace of such living legacies is increasing. There’s no doubt that Vint Cerf continues to watch his early contributions to the internet play out on an extraordinary scale. Perhaps at this intersection of great achievement in both mechanics and information, we’re at a place in history when a lifetime’s worth of progress will regularly be enough to inspire the kind of awe that Orville Wright must have experienced.