Menu Close


Log in to personalise your experience and connect with IOP.

George Cayley 250th Anniversary Symposium

Speakers: Stephen Blee, Dr Kathryn Rix and Dr Mary Jones

George Cayley was born in Scarborough on 27th December 1773 and has been called both the “Father of the Aeroplane” and the “Father of Aerodynamics”. As a school boy he began his study of flight by observing birds and created a prototype helicopter. But unlike many inventors before him, Cayley quickly rejected the notion that an airship required flapping wings. He saw that seagulls changed the angle and shape of their wings to stay aloft, and realised that a man-made glider could do the same. In 1799 Cayley engraved a design for a manned glider on one side of a small silver disc. On the other side, he diagrammed the forces applied to flight. He continued to refine his invention off and on over the years and in 1853 he persuaded his coachman, John Appleby, to sit in this new machine, which then flew 900ft across Brompton Dale.  The legend is that John, aged 79, gave his notice with the words “I was hired to drive not to fly”.

Cayley served in Parliament and conducted various scientific experiments ranging from measuring the growth of his thumbnail to wetlands drainage systems. He was an early member of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and this evening symposium will celebrate his life and work as the 250th anniversary of his birth approaches.


Symposium programme

Introduction and Chair, Professor Andy Marvin

Cayley “A Curious Man”, Dr Mary Jones, Biographer

“An Aeronautical Engineer Ahead of his Time”,  Stephen Blee, Engineer

“Sir George Cayley as a public man”, Dr Kathryn Rix, History of Parliament Trust

Further details about the speakers.


Venue Information

The lecture will take place on Tuesday 5 December at 19:00 at the Yorkshire Museum. All welcome but please prebook your free tickets from Eventbrite.

The location of Yorkshire Museum can be found here.