George Cayley life and biography

George Cayley picture, image, poster

George Cayley biography

Date of birth : 1773-12-27
Date of death : 1854-12-08
Birthplace : Scarborough, Yorkshire, England
Nationality : English
Category : Historian personalities
Last modified : 2011-09-29
Credited as : aeronautical engineer, history of aeronautics,

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Born to a borderline-wealthy family, Sir George Cayley was the Sixth Baronet of Brompton, and as such was well-educated and never had to worry about finances. He served in Parliament, and founded what is now the University of Westminster. A respected scientist in his time, he invented the tension-spoke wheel still used in bicycles, and designed the artillery shells used by the British against Napoleon Bonaparte's France. Cayley is best known for his extensive research into aerodynamics. As early as 1792 he designed a model helicopter that flew, and in 1804 he built a model plane that flew. In 1849 a heavier-than-air glider of Cayley's design lifted a small boy airborne for a few seconds, and in 1859 a larger version of similar design briefly carried a grown man, Cayley's coach driver.

Using kites and un-manned gliders Cayley explained design and structural details of wing composition and drew designs for an airship with a semi-rigid structure. His 1809 booklet Practical Remarks on Aerial Navigation explained the principles of flight in prophetically accurate detail, including why cambered airfoils (curved surfaces) provide better lift than flat surfaces, and how vertical and horizontal rudders could allow steering. He described the air as "an uninterrupted, navigable ocean that comes to the threshold of every man's door." Cayley himself never flew, and died more than a decade before Wilbur Wright's birth.

Cayley served for the Whig party as Member of Parliament for Scarborough from 1832 to 1835, and in 1838 helped found the UK's first Polytechnic Institute; the Royal Polytechnic Institution (now University of Westminster), serving as its chairman for many years. He was a founding member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and was a distant cousin of the mathematician Arthur Cayley.

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