Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

Thomas Baldwin and the Creation of the Hot Air Balloon as a Scientific and Aesthetic Site of Knowledge in the Late Eighteenth Century

Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (2020), 169, (1), 1–16.

Abstract

‘But what scenes of grandeur and beauty! A tear of pure delight flashed in his eye! Of pure and exquisite delight and rapture; to look down on the unexpected change already wrought in the works of art and nature, contracted to a span by the new perspective, diminished almost beyond the bounds of credibility’.1

So wrote Thomas Baldwin in his account of his hot air balloon flight from Chester to Warrington in Lancashire on 8 September 1785. This telling description of his emotional response to the prospect of the earth from the balloon car epitomises Baldwin’s dual concern with aesthetic pleasure and scientific understanding. He felt elated viewing the land anew from his aerial position, amazed at the transformation it revealed and the experimental opportunities it presented.

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Amery, Fiona