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Sir George Cayley

Inventor of the

Science of Flight

Born Scarborough, England

Dec. 27,1773—December 15,1857

Sir George Cayley was a genius of science whose works in aeronautics pioneered the conquest of flight. From youth, when he devised a three-bladed propeller and placed it on a toy top causing it to fly until his death he devoted himself tothe development of craft to carry man aloft.

A true scientist, he maintained meticulous records of his observations and findings, documentation which was to show the way to later pioneers. Observing that birds soared long distances by simply twisting their arched wing surfaces, he deduced that fixed wing machines would fly if the wings were cambered. in 1804 he flew a model of such a glider, and in 1808 a successful full scale version was flown as a kite. A small boy whose name is not recorded, became the first person in history to fly when in 1849 he made a short flight in a Cayley glider. In 1853 the first man-carrying Cayley glider rose from Brompton Dale with his coachman as its passenger.

Cayley recognized and began the search for solutions to the basic problems of flight: the ratio of lift to wing area; determination of the center of wing pressure; the importance of streamlined shapes; the recognition that a tail assembly was essential to stability and control; the concept of a braced biplane structure for strength; the concept of a wheeled undercarriage; and most importantly the need for a lightweight source of power to broaden the utility of the simple glider. In his half century of aeronautical investigation and experimentation, he gave the world the basic elements of a practical aircraft.

Cayley's genius embraced many disciplines and pioneered the way for later advances such as combustion engines, spoked wheels, the caterpillar tractor, finned missiles, railway safety devices, and medical equipment.

The first true pioneer of flight, Sir George Cayley opened the vista of flight to mankind.

Invested 1974 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984


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Updated: March 12, 2004