Building up to the Wright Brothers
In 1485, Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first people to really theorize human flight. While it was never built, the Ornithopter was his idea on how to make human flight possible. The first people to actually send man to the skies was Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier; who invented the first hot air balloon. On November 21, 1783, Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent were the first people to fly in the hot air balloon. However, they were not the first passengers to fly in the hot air balloon. A sheep, rooster, and duck were the actual first passengers to fly in their invention. From 1799-1891, gliders were the focus of aviation. In 1891, the first glider that could fly a person and long distances was made by Otto Lilienthal. He also wrote a book on aerodynamics that was used by the wright brothers. In 1891, Samuel Langley was one of the first people to try and make powered flight a possibility. He built what he called the aerodrome, which was a model of a plane, that was fitted with a steam powered engine and it flew. However, when he tried to create a full sized version of the aerodrome, it was unsuccessful and he gave up on trying to fly. Finally, on December 17, 1903, the Wright brother’s flyer flew the first time for 12 seconds. Two years later, they perfected their design and got their machine to fly for 39 minutes. The flyer had flown about 24 miles in that time.
(Information found from https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/UEET/StudentSite/historyofflight.html)