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British Industrial History

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Henry Coxwell

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Henry Tracey Coxwell (2 March 1819, Wouldham, Kent - 5 January 1900, Lewes, Sussex, England), was an English aeronaut. Famous showman and balloonist who in 1863 interested the Army in the use of observaion balloons.

He was the son of a naval officer, educated for the army, but became a dentist. From a boy he had been greatly interested in ballooning, then in its infancy, but his own first ascent was not made until 1844.

In 1848 he became a professional aeronaut, making numerous public ascents in the chief continental cities. Returning to London, he gave exhibitions from the Cremorne Gardens and subsequently from the Surrey Gardens.

By 1861 he had made over 400 ascents.

In 1862 in company with Dr James Glaisher, he attained the greatest height on record, about 39,000 ft. His companion became insensible, and he himself, unable to use his frost-bitten hands, opened the gas-valve with his teeth, and made an extremely rapid but safe descent. The result of this and other aerial voyages by Coxwell and Glaisher was the making of some important contributions to the science of meteorology.

Coxwell was most pertinacious in urging the practical utility of employing balloons in time of war. He says:

"I had hammered away in The Times for little less than a decade before there was a real military trial of ballooning for military purposes at Aldershot."

Coxwell had a balloon factory in Richmond Road Seaford Sussex and has a memorial at St Peter's Church, East Blatchington, Seaford

His last ascent was made in 1885.

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