December 27, 1773
George Cayley, an engineer and one of the key figures in aviation history, was born in the seaside town of Scarborough in England. He painstakingly observed and took notes on birds and how they were able to fly, and created the first successful glider able to carry humans.
Cayley, first and foremost, helped establish the science of aerodynamics and pinpointed the four principles that would ultimately make possible the airplane and with that human mastery of the skies — gravity, lift, drag, and thrust. “I am well convinced that Aerial Navigation will form a most prominent feature in the progress of civilization,” he noted in 1804. The model glider he created and flew that same year, as a matter of fact, is considered to be a prototype of modern aircraft due to such features as its kite-shaped wing towards the front and adjustable tailplane on the back.
Cayley, who died in the English civil parish of Brompton in 1857 at the age of 83, also designed and built a number of other transportation-oriented innovations. These included the caterpillar tractor, automatic railroad crossing signals, self-righting lifeboats, tension-spoke wheels, seat belts, and a hot-air engine.
Image Credit: Public Domain
For more information on George Cayley, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Cayley