GYRO! by William Wyatt Davenport


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A lively biography of a daring young man's contributions to the popularity and practicality of the flying machine. Lawrence ""Gyro"" Sperry, inventor of retractable landing gear, the bank and turn indicator, and a dutch of other aerial devices, was also an aviator whose feats of derring-do (loop-the-loops under the Brooklyn Bridge, impromptu landings on the steps of the Capitol) advanced the popular appeal of aviation as much as his mechanical improvements made the art practical. Davenport captures the spirit of Sperry and other such rough and tumble--but visionary--aviators as General Billy Mitchell and Glenn Curtiss, and he clearly describes the growth of aviation from a novelty of county fairs to an important military weapon and means of transportation. He's free with tales of the handsome Sperry's womanizing (his airborne liaison with a young socialite was the main theme of New York gossip columns in 1916), but he also gives sympathetic accounts of film star Winifred Allen, Sperry's nonplus-able wife; his sister Helen, who played a faithful second fiddle to her famous brother; and father Elmer, the crusty and conservative president of the Sperry Gyroscope Company. Infused with the adolescent èlan of early 20th-century America, this is a good, multidimensional account of a man's love affair with a machine.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1978
Publisher: Scribners