The History Of Flight: From Da Vinci To The Wright Bros

The Flyer takes off from Kill Devil Hill with Orville Wright at the controls while his brother Wilbur looks on, December 17, 1903. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

The dream of flight is perhaps the most consistent and fundamental dream of humanity, spanning all cultures as far back as historians can see, as shown in cave drawings and ancient myths. They weren't always positive: The Greek myth of Icarus, a bold young man who designed his own pair of wings made of wax and feathers to soar like a bird but met a gruesome demise when they melted because he "flew too close to the sun," may have been metaphorical, but it was pretty clear re: the Ancient Greek attitude toward human flight.

Ancient Flight

Not everyone was afraid of trying out flight for themselves, however. As early as 400 B.C.E., Chinese inventors Mozi and Lu Ban created the first man-made flying device in the form of a kite. Around the same time, Chinese toy makers invented the bamboo-copter, basically a tiny toy helicopter that served little practical purpose but used the same rotor methods as modern-day copters. The Ancient Chinese also discovered the basic mechanisms of the the hot air balloon with the invention of floating paper lanterns.