"The ridiculous fiasco which attended the attempt at aerial navigation in the Langley flying machine was not unexpected....it might be assumed that the flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years."
-- New York Times op-ed, October 9, 1903
"We started assembly today."The Wright Brothers flew the first powered flight two and a half months later.
-- Orville Wright, from his private diary, same day
Bryan Laubschur gave these quotes at this weekend's Space Elevator Conference and said "It helps to be in the loop."
By the way, the Wright Brothers' first powered plane cost them less than $1,000. By contrast, Samuel Langley received more than $50,000 in government funds for his man-carrying Great Aerodrome, which did not fly.
Interesting story: Langley's plane was modified by someone else over a decade later and did then fly, after which the Smithsonian Institute displayed it as the first heavier-than-air manned, powered aircraft "capable of flight. Samuel Langley was the Smithsonian Institute's Secretary at the time of his 1903 attempt. Orville Wright complained and gave his plane to the Science Museum in London. The Smithsonian finally recanted in 1942.