The MIT Museum is marking the centennial of the Wright Brothers flight today with a series of special events and an exhibit spotlighting the major contributions made by MIT and Massachusetts to the development of flight technology.
Governor Mitt Romney named the museum the Commonwealth's official site for "Massachusetts Centennial of Flight Day." The proclamation will be presented by Secretary of Transportation Daniel A. Grabauskus at a meeting of the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission at the museum. Alice Gast, MIT's vice president for research and associate provost, will speak.
Deborah Douglas, the museum's curator of technology and science and an aviation historian, will give a curator's talk at noon. "First Fabric, First Relic" will focus on the invention of the airplane and a one-inch square of fabric from the Wright Brothers 1903 "Flyer." This rare piece of fabric is part of the exhibition "Hub of the Air Universe: A Century of Flight in Massachusetts" on view through July 3.
"Massachusetts is where the first jet engine was developed--in Lynn by GE. Radar was developed at MIT's Rad Lab, air traffic control systems and stealth technology at Lincoln Lab, guidance systems at the Instrumentation Lab, the first aeronautics college program was at MIT," said Douglas.
"What I found in my research is that Massachusetts was a really dynamic technical community that, for the first half of the century, nurtured people who would be pioneers and leaders in the aeronautics field," said Douglas. "Massachusetts was one of the first states to pass aeronautics legislation--in 1922--requiring a pilot's license. Congress didn't pass legislation until 1926."
An afternoon reception at the museum will begin at 1 p.m. with an official cake-cutting ceremony at 1:15 p.m. and hands-on activities for children. The MIT community and the public are invited to stop by for cake and to see the exhibit. The museum is free for everyone today.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 17, 2003.