Brazil 101: The Wright Brothers vs. Santos Dumont – The Great “Who Invented the Airplane” Controversy

If you are an American reading this, it is a matter of settled truth that the airplane was invented by the brothers William and Orville Wright. If, however, you are a Brazilian, the chances are that you have never heard of them, or, if you have, you consider them nefarious interlopers who have stolen the glory that is due to the airplane’s real inventor, a Brazilian guy named Alberto Santos Dumont.

Now, you would think a simple look at the dates would settle things. The Wrights flew in 1903, and Mr. Dumont in 1906. Game, set match…the Wrights invented the airplane.

Except….things are not quite that simple, as you will see. Here are two videos, one expounding upon the merits of Mr. Dumont, and the other making the case for the brothers Wright.

First, Team Dumont

Next up, Team Wright

Whatever you believe about who flew first, Santos Dumont was a truly remarkable figure, as this short bio makes clear.

Check out our other educational posts about Brazil here.

Edit: We had just published this post when we saw this tweet, retweeted by the Brazilian Air Force:

Translation: Today is Aviator Day, and Brazilian Air Force Day. The date celebrates the first flight by Santos Dumont in the 14 Bis on October 23, 1906.

The fact that we decided to post this story today is a happy coincidence!


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