C is for George Cayley

This is my contribution to ABC Wednesday and for Round Ten I am focusing on people from the past, some famous, others less so.

Sir George CayleyThe first person to fly in a heavier-than-air machine wasn’t the Wright brothers, but an unknown coachman who did so in 1853.

He worked for the Yorkshireman, Sir George Cayley, sometimes called the Father of Aviation, who carried out the first truly scientific study of the way that birds fly.

Cayley correctly described the principles of weight, lift, drag and thrust that govern flight and built a series of prototype flying machines, including some with flapping wings powered by steam and gunpowder engines.

He demonstrated the world’s first model glider in 1804 and a full-sized version five years later, but it wasn’t until 1853 that he felt confident enough to attempt a flight with a human passenger.

Replica of Cayley's Glider

Replica of Cayley’s glider

This took place at Brompton Dale, near Scarborough, when Cayley coerced the chary coachman to steer the contraption across the valley.

The coachman reputedly handed in his resignation immediately after he landed saying, ‘I was hired to drive, not fly’.

A replica of Cayley’s glider successfully repeated the flight in 1974 and is now on display at the Yorkshire Air Museum.

If you click on the photo above (from Airliners.net) you’ll see that it had spoked wheels which were another of Cayley’s many inventions and one that also contributed to the development of the cycle and the car.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

10 comments… Add yours
  • Mr Pudding 1st February 2012

    Of course the first man to fly was a Yorkshireman. It’s also worth noting that Neil Armstrong was himself of good Yorkshire stock. We also invented the wheel, the bikini, hot pork sandwiches and Lancashire. Well, everyone makes mistakes.

  • Mr Parrot 1st February 2012

    I agree. Hot pork sandwiches were definitely a mistake, oy vey!

  • Roger Green 1st February 2012

    interesting flying stuff.

    of course, writing about people from the past is fairly simple; how about writing about people of the future? Now, THAT would be challenging.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  • Roger Green 1st February 2012

    Or so it would seem..

  • photowannabe 1st February 2012

    I love hearing about the “Real” history. Good post. Thanks for the info.

  • Jennyta 1st February 2012

    You played right into Yorkshire Pudding’s hands there, SP. 😉

  • Elizabeth 1st February 2012

    Brompton is very proud of its Baronet George Cayley connections, who also invented caterpillar tractors, artificial limbs and an advanced telescope. The local pub is called the ‘Cayley Arms’ in his honour.

  • Helen Mac 1st February 2012

    Three Cheers for Cayley and you for educating us non-Yorkshiremen about him!
    ABC Team

  • Mr Pudding 1st February 2012

    Irish and Scottish cayley dances are named after George Cayley who of course invented the skirl and the Irish jig.

  • Leslie 1st February 2012

    Fascinating! I’m going to be in Yorkshire next summer and will try to go to the museum.

    abcw team


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