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The University of Texas at Dallas, P.O. Box 830688, Richardson, Texas 75083-0688

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News contact: Steve McGregor, UTD, (972) 883-2293, [email protected]

Wright Brothers' Bitter Patent Battles Didn't
Slow Aviation Growth, Smithsonian Expert Says

Dr. Tom D. Crouch to Discuss Subject in UTD's Jalonick Lecture

Dr. Tom D. CrouchRICHARDSON, Texas (June 2, 2003) - One hundred years after making the world's first powered flight over North Carolina's Outer Banks, Wilbur and Orville Wright are the focus of a debate about whether they did as much to slow the growth of aviation in America as to advance it.

The printers-turned-bicycle-manufacturers from Dayton, Ohio, secured their place in the annals of aviation with their historic flight on Dec. 17, 1903, at Kill Devil Hill. Theirs was the first sustained, controlled flight in a powered aircraft. But for years afterwards, the brothers were involved in energy-draining, time-consuming patent fights in America and Europe against those they claimed were copying the design of their aircraft. Some historians and authors have suggested that these legal battles, played out over a period of eight years, crippled the development of the youthful aviation industry, especially in the United States.

Not so, according to Dr. Tom D. Crouch, senior curator of aeronautics at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Crouch will make his case later this month in a lecture at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) titled, "Blaming Wilbur and Orville: The Wright Patent Suits and Development of American Aviation."

Crouch's talk is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, June 28, in the auditorium of the Eugene McDermott Library on UTD's campus in Richardson. It is part of the library's Jalonick Memorial Lecture Series. Limited seating, free of charge, will be available to the public.

Crouch, author of The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright, believes that the period of legal wrangling that followed the brothers' early flights is widely misunderstood and did not impede the development of a fledgling aviation industry. In his UTD address, Crouch plans to offer his own analysis of the forces that governed aeronautical progress, both then and now, as well as discuss some of the characteristics of the Wrights that enabled them to succeed where many others had failed.

"We are fortunate to be able to bring a renowned aviation expert like Dr. Crouch to the Metroplex, particularly during the centennial of powered flight," said Dr. Erik D. Carlson, head of special collections at the McDermott Library. "Dr. Crouch will be speaking at events all over the nation this year to help mark this significant moment in history."

Crouch has been employed by the Smithsonian Institution in a variety of curatorial and administrative positions since 1974, much of that time at the National Air and Space Museum. For the past five years, he has served as the museum's senior curator, aeronautics. In 2002, he was presented the Smithsonian Distinguished Lecturer Award.

He is the author of more than a dozen books and numerous articles in magazines and journals, most on the subjects of aviation and space exploration. In 2000, he was appointed by President Clinton to chair the First Flight Centennial Federal Advisory Board. Crouch holds a Ph.D. degree in American history from The Ohio State University.

The George W. Jalonick III and Dorothy Cockrell Jalonick Memorial Distinguished Lecture Series was established to inform and enlighten the public about the history of flight by bringing aviation notables to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Jalonicks were special friends of UTD and the McDermott Library's History of Aviation Collection. The lecture series was endowed in their memory by their children and friends.

For additional information about Crouch's UTD lecture, please call the McDermott Library's Special Collections Department at (972) 883-2570.

About UTD
The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor, enrolls more than 13,000 students. The school's freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university's Web site at http://www.utdallas.edu.

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