Sir George Cayley was Made in North Yorkshire and is the second person in the spotlight in our Great North Yorkshire Sons and Daughters campaign.
The series draws on artefacts from the county’s archives and is being run in partnership with local history groups.
Born in Scarborough in 1773, Sir George is one of the most innovative and influential characters from North Yorkshire. Often regarded as “the Father of Flight”, Cayley created the first glider to carry a person. He also invented the first artificial hand.
Inspired by watching birds during his childhood in Brompton, he used his observations to make his own flying machines. By the time George was 19, he inherited Brompton Hall, all other Cayley buildings and the baronetcy.
There he built a workshop where he came up with many of his inventions, writing on the wall when he didn’t have his notebook.
Dr Mary Jones, resident of Brompton-by-Sawdon and author of George Cayley’s Curious Summer, said: “I think he was very curious about the world around him and full of so many ideas. Sir George is a Great North Yorkshire Son because he showed all the qualities of a dogged determination not to give up when he knew his ideas were correct, however long it took to prove them.
“I think you see this in many Yorkshire people and he did all his inventions here, in a Yorkshire village and it shows wherever you live you can become a great inventor.”
Not only did Sir George invent the first glider to carry a person, he also created the first artificial limb. It was made for the son of one of his tenants who lost his hand in an accident at the mill. This revolutionised the concept of prosthetics as it could move and manipulate objects.
Vivian Bairstow, life member of Brompton Local History Group, said: “Locally he was a philanthropist; he liked to look after his tenants. He did an awful lot of good, not just in the village but nationally.
“He was just light years ahead of other people’s thinking and I think he stands head and shoulders above so many others with his inventions, which were very often driven by accidents that had happened and his way of correcting them and helping people who may have suffered.”
In 1809, Cayley published a three-part paper which shared the principles of aerodynamics. Everyone in aviation recognises this as the document on how to fly. The defining moment was in 1853, when the world’s first man-carrying glider successfully flew across Brompton Dale. At the age of 79, Sir George Cayley had changed history.
Cayley has a lasting legacy across North Yorkshire with his glider considered to be the first real aeroplane. He is acknowledged by the Wright brothers, who made the first engine-powered flight in 1903, as the man who had done more than anyone else to take aviation forward.
County Council Leader Cllr Carl Les said: “People like Sir George Cayley have driven the county forward through innovation and creativity, his hard work and influence is clear around the world, with many of his innovations still used today.”
We are looking for nominations and would love the public to continue getting involved with Great North Yorkshire Sons and Daughters. If you feel there is someone who made a difference to your community, contact us.
Nominations can be sent to MadeInNorthYorkshire@northyorks.gov.uk.