The daring flights of the early balloonists, the first steps on mankind's upward journey to the Moon and beyond, have been strangely neglected, and their names have been largely forgotten. This book helps to redress that situation. James Sadler was an extraordinary English pioneer who overcame many obstacles to achieve his dream of flying. Born the son of an Oxford pastry cook in 1753, he defied his lowly upbringing to become the first Englishman to build an air balloon. When not flying he applied himself to engine design and the medical uses of gases, and kept busy as a chemist to the Navy; he designed cannon praised by Nelson, firearms for the British East India Company and a prototype armoured car. Aged fifty-seven, he became the first person to cross the Bristol Channel by air.
Against the vivid backdrop of Georgian England, Mark Davies delves into the complex life of this adventurer, exploring the ups and the downs of his amazing career, from his first ascent to his support of the first Englishwoman to fly, and his eventual death in poverty. Sadler's biography also encompasses the stories of his fellow aeronauts, be they courageous, inspired, risible or - occasionally - fatal. This fascinating account is a true homage to our national desire to reach for the skies.
Mark is an Oxford local historian and guide, with a special interest in the history and literature of the non-University aspects of the city, and has written and published several local interest books. This interest in the history of the 'Town' of Oxford, as opposed to the 'Gown', is one reason why the story of the pastry cook turned scientist James Sadler appealed to him so much. Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, is a businessman, investor and entrepreneur. He holds Guinness World Records for crossing the Atlantic by hot-air balloon in 1987 and crossing the Pacific by hot-air balloon in 1999. Don Cameron MBE is a Scottish balloonist and founder of Cameron Balloons, the largest manufacturer of hot-air balloons in the world.