​The Wright Brothers and the conquest of flight

Humans have dreamed of taking flight for centuries. But it wasn't until 1903 that the Wright Brothers -- Wilbur and Orville -- successfully flew a heavier-than-air powered machine (one at a time, we might add, in case things went awry). The story of the Wright Brothers is now told in a brand-new book, and Rita Braver has been talking with its author:

They lived in the same house, worked together six days a week. They kept their money in a joint bank account. "Even thought together," Wilbur said.

Wilbur (left) and Orville Wright, pictured at their home in Dayton, Ohio in June 1909. Wright State University

That's Wilbur Wright, born 1867. His brother Orville was four years younger. And as every schoolchild learns, the Dayton, Ohio, duo became the first people in history to successfully pilot an engine-powered airplane.

"They had this passion, this mission; they were obsessed to succeed," said historian David McCullough.

But though their plane is proudly displayed at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, historian David McCullough still believes the Wright Brothers are underappreciated:

"Every time they went up in this motor-driven airplane, they were risking their lives," he told Braver. "This is something that cannot be overemphasized."

So, in a new book, "The Wright Brothers" (published by CBS' Simon and Schuster), McCullough -- who has won two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- wants to reintroduce Americans to the Wright Brothers ... and present someone else.

The Wright sister.

Her name was Katharine. "And she was something," said McCullough. "She stood about 5 foot one, and she was a powerhouse."

The three siblings lived in a house now preserved at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Their father, Milton, was a clergyman; their mother, Susan, died of tuberculosis in 1889.

Two older siblings left home to start their own families.

"The house had no running water," said McCullough. "No indoor plumbing, no electricity, no telephone. But it did have books, lots of books."

Correspondent Rita Braver and historian David McCullough at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington. CBS News

Wilbur was planning to go to Yale when an accident changed everything: "He was hit in the teeth with a hockey stick, playing hockey when he was about 18," said McCullough. "And it knocked out all his upper front teeth. And he retreated from the world, not going out to do much of anything, ever, for three years."

He ended up opening a bicycle shop with his brother in 1893. They even designed and hand-built their own brand of bike.

But in their spare time, the brothers became obsessed with the idea of another form of transportation: flying, reading everything they could find about previous experiments.

McCullough said the public's view on flying at that time was that it was impossible: "Human beings can't fly, won't fly, ever fly."