Previous Lectures

Presentation given in 1999 by Rubin Battino, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Wright State University. The THREE Who Flew At Kitty Hawk: Charles E. Taylor and the Wright Brothers’ Engines

It is little known aside from historians of early flight that the Wright Brothers did not build their own engines. They hired a mechanician named Charles E. Taylor in 1901 to build and repair bicycles, and to tend their shop while they were away at Kitty Hawk testing their gliders. In fact, they left for Kitty Hawk just a few weeks after they hired Taylor. After they tried unsuccessfully to get someone to build an engine to their specifications, they turned to Charlie (who had never built an engine before) and asked him if he could build one for them. Charlie said "Yes." The engine that powered the Kitty Hawk was built by Taylor in just thirty working days (six weeks) using only a four-jaw chucked lathe and a drill press as power tools. He did not even own a micrometer at the time! This talk is about Taylor, his life, and his family. Technical details are given about the engine design, construction, and performance. The talk is illustrated with overhead transparencies of many wonderful old photographs. This talk includes a short side-talk on the flight of the Vin Fiz: the first transcontinental flight of the U.S. There will be a short video clip of Taylor himself and of a working full-scale replica engine (built at the San Diego Aerospace Museum). Also available will be props showing how the crankshaft was machined, and a one-third scale casting of the engine with some relevant parts.

The Genius of the Wright Brothers

The Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, had three careers: as printers, as bicycle makers, and as the inventors of the first controlled powered man-carrying flying machine. Their family history starts the talk. (A diversion is made to pay homage to Richard Pearse’s contributions.) The talk emphasizes the research and development approach of the Wright Brothers in designing, building, and testing their flying apparati. They were systematic, and tested everything. When it turned out that Liliethal’s lift tables were incorrect, for example, they built a wind tunnel and tested hundred of airfoil designs. They started their work at Kitty Hawk by testing large kites. Their main interest was always in the aerodynamics of controlled flight—you might consider them to be the world’s first "control" freaks. When they turned to powered flight, they first had to solve the problem of propeller design (with no help from the literature). The talk is illustrated with many overhead transparencies of original photographs in the possession of the Wright State University Archives.

Professor Rubin Battino

Brief CV

Professor Battino is a retired Professor of Chemistry, and is currently visiting New Zealand as the Eskline Fellow at Canterbury University. He is lecturing in the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, and will be in New Zealand till June 1999. He has visited New Zealand several times previously, most recently in 1995.

Professor Battino has a very impressive academic background, and as well has many other interests. He has published numerous technical papers, and is an accomplished speaker. He has a strong interest in the history of early flight, particularly the Wright Brothers. He has collaborated in the preparation of an biography and an oral history of Charles E Taylor, the Wright Brothers mechanician.

His other interests include Chemical education, psychotherapy and counselling. He is a licensed Professional Clinical Councillor in the State of Ohio, and has taught Neurolinguistic Programming. He is also a leader of groups based on the philosophy of Dr Bernie Siegel for people who have life threatening illnesses. He has also written 14 plays and a book on Haiku. One of his plays; ‘Die Already!’ Was produced in Christchurch in 1988.

Rubin Battino is the editor of An Oral History of Charles E. Taylor: The Wright Brothers’ Mechanician. He can be reached via E-mail at:

Building the International Space Station:

How and why the nations of the world are uniting in space


The story of the Tower of Babel emphasises that it is a problem of biblical proportions for the people of the world to reach out together into the heavens. However, sixteen nations have already started to assemble in earth orbit several million parts, weighing hundreds of tonnes, to make a space station larger than a football field and twenty stories tall. The conquest of the final frontier has begun, and when the first crew goes aboard this year, humankind will forevermore have some representatives living off the planet, out in the cosmos. We are truly at the dawn of a new era.

The engineers assigned to the Space Station project have had to overcome not only the daunting technical challenges, but also cultural, financial, linguistic, and political obstacles to reach this common vision. Each nation and each individual brings both shared and private goals to the project. It is the shared values of the group, and personal integrity of each contributor, which will conquer the formidable odds to achieve this global vision of the future.

The presentation will provide an overview of the history of space station concepts leading up to and including the International Space Station's design. Included will be some insight into the question of WHY. (The answer includes some exciting economics, and numerous special political, cultural, and technical influences). The presentation will address the way in which risks in this world-wide high-stakes effort are identified, mitigated, and sometimes accepted, and will explore the unique team effort and values which have risen to meet the challenges. There will be substantial time reserved for questions.


Jack Bacon Ph.D., P.Eng.

Jack Bacon is an expert in spacecraft integration, and in aerospace systems architectures. He works at the NASA Johnson Space Center as systems integration lead of numerous Russian and American spacecraft, including the Zarya' (also known by its Russian acronym: FGB), the first element and bridge module of the new International Space Station, launched November 20, 1998. His duties at NASA have included several assignments in the integrated architecture, design, and operations of the Shuttle and of all systems in the US, Russian, Japanese, European, and Canadian elements of the International Space Station. His duties have taken him to space development facilities all over the world, including previously secret Russian installations. He has presented NASA topics on all levels to worldwide audiences, and on numerous radio and TV events. An award-winning writer, he is currently working on "My Grandfathers' Clock": a nonfiction which traces the development of technology and society through 28 known generations of his family, dating from medieval times to today's permanent human presence in the cosmos.

He is the grandson of aviation pioneer David L. Bacon, one of the original engineers of the NACA in 1919, and of Grace Dunlap, the second woman technical employee at the NACA. (NACA= National Advisory Council on Aeronautics: the precursor of NASA). He is married to the former Janeane Stephens, a speech pathologist, and he is stepfather to Crystal Burdine, a high school student.

Dr. Bacon received his BS degree from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1976, and his MS and Ph.D. degrees respectively in 1978 and 1984 from the University of Rochester (New York), where he worked on laser-fusion power reactors, fusion propulsion systems, and on microgravity fluid surfaces. He worked for Xerox Corporation in several advanced technology and systems integration assignments, prior to joining NASA in 1990. He was also heavily involved in implementing the "Leadership Through Quality" program at Xerox, which won the Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award in 1989. He is licensed as a Professional Engineer.

Jack is a former sailplane pilot, scuba diver, and skydiver. He volunteers regularly as a test subject in numerous NASA flight medicine & physiology experiments, and has logged over 30 minutes of zero-gravity experience in medical test programs aboard parabolic aircraft flights. He is one of over 2700 applicants in the current astronaut selection round. He is a Member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and is nominated as a Fellow of the International Explorers Club. Among his numerous awards and honors, Jack has twice been recognized with the NASA Outstanding Speaker Award, has received the coveted Silver Snoopy award from the astronauts, and has attained the Johnson Space Center's highest recognition, the Certificate of Commendation.

The technical development of aviation up to 1903


Heavier than air flight is taken for granted today, but it was not so at the dawn of the 20th century. There were plenty of sceptics and doubters. It is hard to imagine now how revolutionary the idea and the reality of flight must have been to people at that time, even though kites and windmills had existed for centuries and birds could be seen flying every day.

The Wright Brothers first powered flight took place on 17 December 1903, 98 years ago this year. Others were getting into the air about that time, but Wilbur and Orville Wright are generally regarded as the first to fly a fully controllable, powered, heavier than air machine.

Many people contributed to the body of knowledge that developed over the centuries, and which was the starting point for Wilbur and Orville Wright when they commenced their experiments in 1899.

This lecture will cover the technical issues addressed over the years, the experiments that established the relationships between the variables and the data that was necessary for the Wright Brothers to be able to design their powered flyer in 1903.

Brief CV

Hugh G McCarroll MRAeS, C Eng.


BE (Mech.) Canterbury University 1967

Work Experience:

Qantas Airways Ltd

Aeronautical Engineer at Mascot Jet base (1968-1977)

Technical Representative in Seattle (1977-1980)

Audit Manager in Sydney Head office (1980-1982)

Engineering Services Manager at Mascot (1982-1984).

Christchurch International Airport

Airport Director, Christchurch Airport Authority (1984-1988)

General Manager Operations, Christchurch International Airport Ltd (1988 – present)

Professional activities

Member of the Society

Past President of the Royal Aeronautical Society NZ Division (1997-1998)

Past Chairman, Canterbury branch

Lecture venues:

Canterbury 22 May 8:00pm Room E8, School of Engineering, Canterbury University.

Blenheim 30 May 7:30pm RNZAF Command Training School Theatre, Woodbourne

Wellington 31 May 7:30pm Wellington Aero Club

Auckland 5 June 7:30pm University of Auckland School of Engineering Room 1.401

Hamilton 6 June 7:30pm Airforce Association Clubrooms, Cobham Drive, Hamilton East

Palmerston North 7 June 7:30pm RSA, Broadway Avenue, Palmerston North

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