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mathematician, composer, photographer, fiddler

26 Jun 2018 | categories: Mathematics, Aviation

Cayley Lane

Carl McTague on Cayley Lane (2018)

There are two things called the Cayley Plane,

  1. The projective plane over the octonions, named after the mathematician Sir Arthur Cayley (1821–1895), and

  2. The groundbreaking aeroplane designed by his distant cousin, the aviation pioneer Sir George Cayley (1774–1857).

I could write a lot about the first. In fact, I’ve written a paper about it,

The Cayley Plane and String Bordism, Geometry & Topology 18-4 (2014), 2045–2078.

But last week I travelled to Brompton [outside Scarborough, UK] to pay homage to the second.

I visited Sir George’s workshop at Brompton Hall, where he designed his plane. [Cayley Lane, pictured above, runs beside it.] And I spent the night at Sir George’s annex Wydale Hall, now a retreat centre run by the Diocese of York.

Wydale Hall (2018)Vale of Pickering (2018)

After breakfast a kind 83-year-old pastor walked me to Brompton Dale, where in 1853 Sir George’s terrified coachman John Appleby flew the plane [afterwards saying “Please, Sir George, I wish to give notice. I was hired to drive, and not to fly.”]

Carl McTague at Brompton Dale (2018)

Brompton Dale (2018)

[There is, as far as I know, no connection with the Brompton folding bicycle – my primary mode of transport, named by its inventor Andrew Ritchie after the Brompton Oratory in London, where Alfred Hitchcock got hitched, and which Ritchie could see from his workshop window while building prototypes in 1976 – outside the fact that Sir George invented the wire wheel for his plane.]

[Speaking of London, a few days earlier I visited Lincoln’s Inn, where in the 1840’s Sir Arthur and JJ Sylvester would meet to discuss invariant theory.]