Dr. Peter L. Jakab is a part-time Senior Curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. He formerly served as Chief Curator and the Museum’s Associate Director for Collections and Curatorial Affairs. He has been with the Museum since 1983. He holds a BA, MA, and PhD in American history from Rutgers University. Areas of specialization include the history of technology, aerospace history, and American social and cultural history. Prior museum work includes stays at the Edison National Historic Site, West Orange, N.J., and the New Jersey Historical Commission. He also spent a year with the Thomas A. Edison Papers Project and two years teaching American history at Rutgers University during his graduate study. During his stay at the Museum, he has curated numerous exhibitions and frequently lectured on the history of technology; the history of invention; the Wright brothers and pioneer aviation; and First World War aviation. His exhibitions include Artist Soldiers: Artistic Expression in the First World War; Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds, featuring the original da Vinci Codex; and The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age, a major gallery featuring the original 1903 Wright Flyer. His publications include the books Visions of a Flying Machine: The Wright Brothers and the Process of Invention (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990); Icare: revue de l'aviation française, #147, Les Frères Wright, 1994; The Published Writings of Wilbur and Orville Wright (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000), and The Wright Brothers and The Invention of the Aerial Age (National Geographic Society, 2003), the companion book to the exhibition.
The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with their historic first flights at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The influence of their invention is beyond measure. The transport by air of goods and people, quickly and over great distances, and the military applications of flight technology have had vast economic, geopolitical, and cultural impact around the globe. The Wrights helped fashion a radically new world.
Companion book to the NASM exhibition, The Wright Brothers & the Invention of the Aerial Age.