The Wright brothers were the first to fly in December of 1903. The controversy in question centered around the Wright Brothers and their archrival, Samuel Langley, who was a well learned scientist. Everyone at the time expected Langley to be successful. He had no shortage of funding, no shortage of media coverage or assistants. The Wright brothers, on the other hand, were untrained, mostly self-taught, broke, and were considered by everyone as having very little chances of getting off the ground. Well, as fate would have it, the Wright Brothers became airborne on the 17th of December, over four successful runs. When people caught word of this, they all refused to believe that the Wrights brothers could have outdone such a distinguished scientist as Langley. The Smithsonian Institute, much to their unending shame, remained loyal to Langley (who was assistant secretary), and named him as the official inventor of flight. Long after Langley passed away, the Smithsonian managed to get their hands on his original plane, had it modified to the Wrights Brothers' specifications, and put it on display as the first plane in flight. I guess the shame became too much to bear, for about 40 years later, they finally admitted to what was done, changed the display, and correctly credited the Wrights Brothers.