James Sadler (balloonist)
Sadler was the second person to make a balloon ascent in England, very soon after the Tuscan Vincent Lunardi's flight on 15 September 1784 in the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company at Moorfields. Sadler made his ascent during the month after on 4 October 1784 from Christ Church Meadow, Oxford. The balloon rose to about 3,600 feet and landed near Woodeaton, around six miles away. His second ascent on 12 November, this time in a hydrogen-filled balloon, reached Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire after a twenty-minute flight. In May of the following year he took off near Moulsey Hurst, Surrey, accompanied by W. Wyndham MP, hoping to reach France, but in fact descending in the Thames Estuary, and thus failing to repeat the earlier exploit of Jean-Pierre Blanchard and his passenger. Sadler made two further ascents in May 1785, the first of which was from a field behind a gentleman's garden on the site of what is now Balloon Street in Manchester. On this flight he was accompanied by a cat and landed in Radcliffe. On his second ascent he travelled alone and having risen to 13,000 ft. travelled 50 miles before landing near Pontefract, West Yorkshire. On this occasion, he sustained bad injuries after being dragged for around 2 miles by the balloon, which eventually threw him clear before taking off again empty.
He was appointed Chemist in 1796 in the newly created Naval Works Department under Sir Samuel Bentham. Although the post was only abolished in 1807, he had major disagreements with Bentham and carried out few works. His most important invention was that of the table steam engine. He was responsible for improvements to cannon design, from the barrel to the shot used, to improve accuracy; for which he was praised by Admiral Lord Nelson.
He resumed his ballooning activities although he was devastated by the death of his younger son, Windham, in a ballooning accident in 1824.
Although a celebrity in his own time, Sadler is largely unknown today. This has been partly attributed his lack of writing any works and partly to class prejudice: he was only a pastry chef and not formally educated. Despite being a resident of Oxford and accomplished scientist, the university mostly ignored him and academics looked down on him. While obituaries for Sadler were written elsewhere on his death, the university's own newspaper wrote simply, "Mr James Sadler, elder brother of Mr Sadler of Rose Hill, Oxford, has died."
Selected balloon ascents
- 7 July 1810: at Oxford, on the occasion of the installation of Lord Grenville as Chancellor at Oxford University.
- September 1810: from Bristol, with the chemist William Clayfield, landing safely near Combe Martin in the Bristol Channel.
- 29 August 1811: from Hackney to East Thorpe in Essex (near Colchester), with Henry Beaufoy (1786–1851); a number of experiments were performed.
- 7 October 1811: a speed record during a gale, travelling over a hundred miles in about 1 hour 20 minutes.
- 1 October 1812: from Belvedere House near Drumcondra, Ireland, attempting to cross the Irish Sea; he almost drowned in the attempt.
- 1814: in London, to open the Jubilee celebrations that year.
- Serck, Linda (12 July 2014). "James Sadler: The Oxford balloon man who history forgot". BBC News. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Glasscock, Robin Edgar (1992). Historic Landscapes of Britain from the Air. CUP Archive. p. 154. ISBN 0521325331.
- "DOMESTIC OCCURRENCES, omitted in May, or imperfectly stated.". The Gentleman's Magazine: and historical chronicle, Jan.1736-Dec.1833 (Chatto & Windus) 55 (6): 480–486. June 1785. ISSN 2043-2992. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Proctor, Richard Wright (1866). Manchester in holiday dress. Manchester: Abel Heywood and Son. p. 164. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
- J. E. Hodgson, ‘James Sadler of Oxford’, Trans. Newcomen Society, 8,1927–8, 66–82: BL Add. MS 40221 f. 272, Add. MS 37888 f. 161: Science Museum library Goodrich MS C11
- J. E. Hodgson. The history of aeronautics in Great Britain. 1924.