1902 Encyclopedia > Aeronautics > British Association Appoints Balloon Committee. Mr James Glaisher's Balloon Ascents.

(Part 29)

British Association Appoints Balloon Committee. Mr James Glaisher's Balloon Ascents.

At the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Aberdeen in 1859, a committee was appointed for the purpose of making observations in the higher strata of the atmosphere by means of the balloon. For the first two years nothing was effected, owing to the want both of an observer and of a suitable balloon. In 1861, at Manchester, the committee was reappointed, and it then consisted of Colonel Sykes (chairman) Mr. Airy, Sir David Brewster, Mr. Fairbairn, Admiral Fitzroy, Mr. Gassiot, Mr. James Glaisher, Sir J. Herschel, Dr. Lee, Dr. Lloyd, Dr. W.A. Miller, Dr. Robinson, and Dr. Tyndall. Some unsuccessful experiments were made with a balloon of Mr. Green's, and also with one hired from the proprietors of Cremorne Gardens, which turned out to be in a hopelessly leaky condition; the trained observers also, on whom the committee had relied, failed to perform their duties. In this state of affairs, Mr. Coxwell, an aeronaut who had made a good many ascents, was communicated with, and he agreed to construct a new balloon, of 90,000 cubic feet capacity, on the condition that the committee would undertake to use it, and pay 25 pounds for each high ascent made especially for the committee, the latter defraying also the cost of gas, &c., so that the expense of each high ascent amounted to nearly 50 pounds.

An observer being still wanted, Mr. Glaisher, a member of the committee, offered himself to take the observations, and accordingly the first ascent was made on July 17, 1862, from the gas-works at Wolverhampton, this town being chosen on account of its central position in the country. Altogether, Mr. Glaisher made twenty-eight ascents, the last having taken place on May 26, 1866. Of these only seven were specially high ascents, although six others were undertaken for the objects of the committee alone. On the other occasions Mr. Glaisher availed himself of public ascents from the Crystal Palace and other places of entertainment, merely taking his place like the other passengers. In the last six ascents another aeronaut, Mr. Orton, and a smaller balloon, were employed. The dates, places of ascent, and greatest heights (in feet) attained in the twenty-eight, ascents were --1862: July 17, Wolver Hampton, 26,177; July 30, Crystal Palace, 6937; August 18, Wilvehampton 23,377; August 20, Crystal Palace, 5900; August 21, Hendon, 14,355; September 1, Crystal Palace, 4190; September 5, Wolverhampton, 37,000; September 8, Crystal Palace, 5428. 1863: March, 31 Crystal Palace, 22,884; April 18, Crystal Palace, 24,163; June 26, Wolverton, 23,200; July 11, Crystal Palace 6623; July 21, Crystal Palace, 3298; August 31, Newcastle-upon Tyne, 8033; September 29, Wolverhampton 16,590; October 9, Crystal Palace, 7310. 1864: January 12, Woolwich, 11,897; April 6, Woolwich, 11,075; June 13, Crystal Palace, 3543; June 20, Derby, 4280; June 27, Crystal Palace, 4898; August 29, Crystal Palace, 14,581; December 1, Woolwich 5431; December 30, Woolwich, 3735. 1865: February 27, Woolwich, 4865; October 2, Woolwich 1949; December 2, Woolwich, 4628. 1866: May 26, Windson, 6325. Of these, all the ascents from Wolverhampton (four in number) and from Woolwich (seven in number) were undertaken wholly for the committee, and Mr. Glaisher was merely accompanied by the aeronaut, whose business it was to manage the balloon. The expense of the special high ascents (about 50 pounds for each, as stated above) rendered it desirable, when possible, to take advantage of the desire felt by many to accompany Mr. Glaisher in his journey, and admit one or two other travelers; and of this kind were one or two of the ascents from the Crystal Palace, though the majority, in which the elevation attained frequently feel short of a mile, were the ordinary public ascents advertised beforehand. It is not possible here to give any complete account of the results obtained, and it would be superfluous, as the observations, both as made and after reduction, are printed in the British Association Reports, 1862-66. It will be enough, after explaining the objects of the experiments, &c., to describe briefly one or two of the most remarkable ascents, and then state the kind of conclusions that follow from them as a whole.

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