February 7, 2012 Engineer Who Inspired Wright Brothers Is Subject of Book Discussion

Octave Chanute Was Designer of Aeronautics, Bridges, Stockyards

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221
Contact: Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6382 (voice/tty), ada@loc.gov

French-born and self-trained civil engineer Octave Chanute (1832-1910) designed America’s two largest stockyards, created innovative and influential structures such as the Kansas City Bridge over the previously “unbridgeable” Missouri River and was a passionate aviation pioneer whose collaborative approach to aeronautical engineering problems encouraged other experimenters, including the Wright brothers.

Drawing heavily on the rich aeronautical archives of the Library of Congress, including Chanute’s personal correspondence, “Locomotive to Aeromotive: Octave Chanute and the Transportation Revolution” (University of Illinois Press, 2011) is the first detailed examination of Chanute’s life and his immeasurable contributions to engineering and transportation, from the ground-transportation revolution of the mid-19th century to the early days of aviation.

Author-historian Simine Short will discuss and sign her work on Wednesday, Feb. 29, at noon in the Mary Pickford Theater, located on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This event, sponsored by the Center for the Book as part of its Books & Beyond author series, is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. The Library’s Manuscript Division, where Short did much of her research, is co-sponsoring this event.

Short brings to light in colorful detail many previously overlooked facets of Chanute’s professional and personal life. Though best known for his aviation work, he became a key figure in the opening of the American continent by laying railroad tracks and building bridges, experiences that later gave him the engineering knowledge to build the first stable aircraft structure. Chanute also introduced a procedure to treat wooden railroad ties with an antiseptic that increased the wood’s lifespan in the tracks. This biography cements Chanute’s place as a preeminent engineer and mentor in the history of U.S. transportation and the development of the airplane.

Short is an aviation historian who has researched and written extensively on the history of motorless flight. Her first book, “Glider Mail: An Aerophilatelic Handbook,” received numerous research awards worldwide and is considered a standard reference by aerophilatelists and aviation researchers.

Short’s book is also the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The Books & Beyond Book Club is available at www.facebook.com/booksandbeyond/. Here readers can discuss books, the authors of which have appeared or will appear in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have seen and heard.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress (www.Read.gov/cfb/) has become a major national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for 52 affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s www.Read.gov website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center.


PR 12-031
ISSN 0731-3527