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Humanity sprouts wings

From the June 2001 issue of The Christian Science Journal


The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, followed developments in early aviation with interest. We asked aviation history writer Rosalie Dunbar to comment.

Humankind's desire to fly like the birds antedates by centuries the Wright brothers' first flight on that early December morning in 1903. But while the world's best-known aviation pioneers managed to stay aloft for only 12 seconds during that 120-foot journey, human beings would thereafter prove to be irreversibly aloft. Interested in finding out more about early aviation? Our editors found the www.wright-brothers.org Web site good for basic information, and then some .

Mary Baker Eddy is said to have had a keen interest in the advancements being made in aviation. When the members of her household attended an aviation meet at Squantum, Massachusetts, in September 1910, she quizzed them carefully about their observations. But, characteristically, she tended to describe humanity's desire to rise above the ground in spiritual terms. In a brief article entitled "Soaring," she remarked: "To fly materially is animal, to fly spiritually is divine. . . . The elevation desirable worth obtaining or possible to obtain in Science is spiritual ascent, thought soaring above matter. . . . Oh when will the age plant its discoveries on spiritual cause & effect, on that which is not only capable of going up but is ascending, physically, mentally and spiritually." . Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977), pp. 510-511 .

The Christian Science Monitor, which Mrs. Eddy established in 1908, has given significant coverage to aviation, especially during the newspaper's early years. Although the Wright brothers' first successful flight in 1903 had been in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, their own penchant for secrecy, as well as the world's reluctance to accept the possibility that people could fly, resulted in the brothers' not receiving credit for their accomplishment for several more years.

In August 1908, Wilbur Wright took their airplane to Paris by ship. On his arrival, a French newspaper asked the question, "Fliers or liars?" Wilbur answered by controlling their Wright Flyer masterfully before an astounded French audience.. Russell Freedman, The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane (New York: Holiday House, 1991), p. 92

After that exhibition, people began to accept that humanity need no longer be earthbound. That change in thought opened up new vistas for humanity—through interchanges among nations and beyond the planet itself.


Rosalie E. Dunbar is the President of Top Fun Aviation Toy Museum in Winchendon, Massachusetts.

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