Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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James M. Tytler

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James M. Tytler (17 December 1745 – 11 January 1804) was a Scottish apothecary and the editor of the second edition of Encyclopædia Britannica. Tytler became the first person in Britain to fly by ascending in a hot air balloon (1784)

1745 Born in Fearn, Forfarshire, Scotland, the son of a Presbyterian minister. His father taught him Greek, Latin and theology. He probably studied for the ministry but was not interested in (Orthodox) Calvinism. He became a preacher in the Church of Scotland and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, after which he was apprenticed to a ship's surgeon for one year

Tytler rivalled the French pioneers of hot air ballooning and was the first person in Britain to ascend in a balloon, almost a month before his rival to the title, Vincenzo Lunardi, made a hydrogen balloon ascent in London. Tytler's venture was expensive, but succeeded after several attempts on 25 August 1784, in Edinburgh. His balloon rose a few feet from the ground. Two days later he managed to reach a height of some 350 feet, travelling for half a mile between Green House on the northern edge of what is now Holyrood Park to the nearby village of Restalrig. Later trials were less fortunate. In October his balloon only took off after Tytler left the basket, to the disappointment of the crowd. Having previously been 'the toast of Edinburgh', he was ridiculed and called a coward. His last flight was on 26 July 1785.

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