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James Glaisher - eminent Victorian

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In 1862 the British Association for the Advancement of Science decided to fund a series of flights to study the upper atmosphere. The balloons would have to fly as high as possible. Member of the Greenwich Observatory and founder member of the British Meteorological Society, James Glaisher (1809-1903), volunteered to perform these potentially dangerous flights. In all he made 28 ascents between 1862 and 1866, 13 of which were funded by the Association. His usual pilot was the experienced balloonist Henry Coxwell (1819-1900). On their first ascent of 17 July 1862 they reached an altitude of 26,177 ft. without oxygen. On 5 September, in a balloon called the Mars, they managed an altitude in the region of 30,000 ft., although it almost cost them their lives. Glaisher lost consciousness and Coxwell had to climb up into the rigging to free a tangled valve line. His hands were so paralysed with cold that he had to pull the chord with his teeth in order to check their ascent. Had he failed to manage it, they would both surely have died of hypothermia or oxygen starvation


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2 hours ago, ciel said:


What struck me most about Glaisher's account is his apparent objectivity and disregard in narrating his experience of losing and regaining consciousness, and subsequently continuing with his observations.

Yes indeed when you consider what might have happened had Coxwell succumbed. As for objectivity, he was somewhat of an obsessive character for detail as when, for example, he became interested in the structure of snow flakes. Just as well they didn't hit a strong jet.

There is a neurological account of his sickness which unfortunately is not in the public domain. (the diagram of the flight is okay)



In 1862, James Glaisher and Henry Coxwell ascended to 29,000 feet in an open hot-air balloon. During the ascent, Glaisher described marked neurologic compromises: appendicular and later truncal paralysis, blindness, initially preserved cognition, and subsequent loss of consciousness. The author examines Glaisher’s account of balloon sickness by comparing it with other balloonists’ observations and discussing it in the context of altitude sickness, decompression injury, and hypoxemia.


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