Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. John Anderson, Curator of Aerodynamics at the National Air & Space Museum. Dr. Anderson was kind enough to give me a walk-through on the workings of the balances used by the Wright brothers in their wind tunnel. He was thorough and patient in his explanation, stopping along the way to answer related questions I had for my book for Springer Verlag. When we were done, we went to view the airfoils on display and satisfy our mutual curiosity on one point.
It was an amazing meeting and I appreciated the time he took to go through the misinterpretations on the Wrights’ part that led to their conclusion that Lilienthal’s data was inaccurate. Dr. Anderson went through each mis-step and accounted for the 30% discrepancy in lift they experienced.
It’s not often that one has the opportunity to sit down and discuss a topic with the person who has written so extensively on the subject. It’s certainly a meeting I will never forget.