C is for George Cayley

I am again focusing on the famous, the forgotten and the misbegotten for Round 25 of the popular ABC Wednesday meme. But finding suitable characters is getting harder, so apologies in advance if there are repeats of previous posts.

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.

6 comments… Add yours
  • ABC Wednesday 24th July 2019

    Shame he does not get the honnors he deserves

    Have a heartwarming en splendid ABC-Wednes-day / -week
    M e l o d y (team ABC-W)

  • Roger Green 25th July 2019

    An uplifting story

  • Su-sieee! Mac 25th July 2019

    Interesting that Cayley didn’t want to take the first flight.

  • Suzy 27th July 2019

    Interesting story. I guess the coachman wanted his feet firmly on the ground.
    dropping by from the ABCWed linkup.

  • Yorkshire Pudding 28th July 2019

    It’s no surprise to me that a Yorkshireman invented flying. Equally, it’s no surprise that George Cayley possessed the humility and quiet self-deprecation that is characteristic of Yorkshiremen everywhere.

  • Trevor Rowley 29th July 2019

    And when he moved to live in Bolton, Lancashire he was quoted as saying, “I just couldn’t wait to earn enough brass to get me out of that place. Most of them couldn’t get through their front doors, their heads were so big.” He died in retirement at St Annes-on-Sea.


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