Sir George Cayley, British aviation pioneer, c 1850.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Cayley (1773-1857) dedicated most of his life to the study and experiment of the basic principles of flight. He pioneered aerial navigation, was the founder of aerodynamics, and is widely considered to be the 'father' of fixed-wing flight. He was responsible for the first man-carrying glider (1853). His innovative 'aerial Carriage' of 1843 incorporated four circular discs that were designed to raise the machine vertically, rather like a helicopter, whereupon they were to close and form circular wings. However, the design was never built. Cayley is also remembered as a founder (1839) of the Royal Polytechnic Institute, Regent Street, London, and a sponsor of the first meeting of the British Asociation for the Advancement of Science in York, 1832.