The Man with His Head in the Clouds: James Sadler: the First Englishman to Fly
Richard O. Smith
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This is the story of how an uneducated Oxford pastry cook became the first Englishman to fly, in a self-built balloon powered by primitive, and potentially lethal, hydrogen. Despite taking off in force 8 gales, crashing into hills and plopping into the Irish Sea, James Sadler became a rare pioneering aeronaut to survive such perilous ascents. Good luck was not hereditary; his son's balloon fatally collided with a chimney. Sadler advanced the scientific evolution of lighter-than-air flight, and took part in both of the famous races that so captivated the public in late eighteenth-century Europe: across the Channel, and the Irish Sea. He earned Lord Nelson's endorsement for improving the Royal Navy with applied science, created one of the first - perhaps the very first - mobile steam engines and was revered by fans like Percy Shelley and Dr. Johnson. Yet even the brightest stars one day collapse, as Sadler's name emits virtually no light today. Like Sadler, Richard O. Smith emanates from Oxford's Town not Gown. Like Sadler, he wants to look down on Oxford - literally - and his admiration for the balloonist culminates in him replicating the first ever flight, also over Oxford. But there is a problem. The author suffers from acute acrophobia, a crippling fear of heights. This prevents him from standing on a stool, yet alone dangling at 3,000 feet beneath an oversized party balloon. To overcome his chronic height anxiety, he seeks pre-flight counselling, learning all about current understanding of phobias and anxieties. Here he discovers that he is also bathmophobic - a fully-functioning adult who is afraid of stairs. Inspired by Sadler, Smith sets out to overcome his debilitating fear and ascend in a balloon over Oxford. 'Be positive. You just need a will to do it,' counsels a psychologist. So, taking that advice, he starts positively, by making a will.
kissed whom I shouldn’t have, and girls I didn’t kiss whom I definitely should have. Emotion rises within, swelling up like the hot air inflating a balloon, causing a geezer burst of tears. I try and shape words out of these emotions, wanting to reveal my love for my partner. Without a blindfold I am able to see my wife is playing with her phone, smirking at a text message from a friend. I call out my wife’s name with honest affection. “Er... can it wait a minute... texting,” she replies.
in unnecessary additional danger by ascending with an inexperienced flyer. It did not end at all well. The pair ascended before a huge throng of spectators from the grounds of Mr. Dodswell’s gardens in Surrey between Sunbury-on-Thames and Kingston at Moulsey Hurst, a location already established as a site for cricket, prize fighting and other mass entertainments for a holidaying or weekending public. After spending two and half hours filling his balloon with hydrogen, by 9am Sadler was prepared
extremely fortune to have escaped with relatively minor injuries. His decision to spare his daughter from the experience could well have saved her life. It is almost impossible to differentiate between Sadler and his sons in reports of the age, so no one is categorically sure how many flights Sadler senior accomplished. The Bury and Norwich Post reported that he had accompanied fifteen fights prior to Cambridge, but others report it as the sixteenth or eighteenth. We do know that Sadler
my fellow passengers who will have paid around �125 each. “How was your anxiety-eliciting stimulus affected?” asks Claire. I like the fact she doesn’t need to de-jargonise for me anymore. I interpret it as the compliment it’s meant to be. Her unspoken subtext I interpret as: “We know you’re smart enough to understand our technical psychological language. Just because you’re frightened of heights and experience manifested difficulties in going upstairs doesn’t mean we think you’re an idiot.”
greatly outnumber (by about one order of magnitude) those from all natural disasters.” Thankfully, in the UK at least, someone is on the case - the stair case - to improve safety. And muzzle this domestic killer. “The building regulations have controlled stairway design since 1944, however, they are not retrospective. As a result, there are many buildings in existence which do not meet the current required standards. Building regulations control aspects such as handrail and balustrade heights;