Samuel Langley, the inventor of a catastrophically incompetent ‘flying’ machine is a striking example of governments picking losers. When his 16-metre monster was catapulted into the air in 1903, it instantly plunged into the Potomac river like an obese Icarus. Langley was the beneficiary of the sort of government largesse and boosterism that has lately been lavished on Operation Warp Speed’s Covid vaccines but at least nobody died as a result of his incompetence.
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