Most Americans are aware that the Wright brothers had been the first to fly a powered “Flying Machine” in 1903. But John J. Montgomery was the first to fly a glider of his own design in 1883, a full twenty years before the Wright brothers.
Achieving Flight, by John G. Burdick and Bernard J. Burdick, provides an historic and scientific assessment of the role of John J. Montgomery (1858-1911), one of California’s own, in the early years of flight in America. It tells the story of Montgomery, an eminent scientist whose achievements in aeronautics and electricity have largely been forgotten. This biography narrates how, during his days as a student at St. Ignatius College, he was fortunate to be instructed by some of the most renowned Jesuit scientists ousted from Europe, earning a master’s of science degree in 1880. The Burdicks also provide a critical analysis of Montgomery’s prescient understanding of aeronautics relative to other practitioners and researchers prior to, during, and after his time.
Noting Montgomery’s importance in aeronautical history, Achieving Flight reviews his significant accomplishments in having his pilots fly successfully in high air (up to 4,000 feet, being lofted there by a hot-air balloon), but also evaluates the scientific correctness of his ideas, which were decades ahead of the times.