James Sadler (1753-1828), balloonist, engineer and chemist, of Oxford
1753 born in Oxford and baptized there on 27 February 1753, elder son of James Sadler (1718–1791), cook and confectioner and his wife, Elizabeth (1718–1802).
He and his brother Thomas (1756–1829) worked in their father's business.
Married Mary. Four children born before 1785, including John, their eldest son.
1784 Sadler released a 36 foot hydrogen balloon, probably from the St Clement's residence of John Sibthorp, on 9 February. Constructed a 170 foot hot-air balloon in which he made the first ascent by an English aeronaut on 4 October; the balloon rose to 3600 feet and landed 6 miles away after a half-hour flight.
1785 Further balloon ascents were made; Sadler then changed to other experiments.
c.1785 was one of the first to use coal gas as an illuminant.
By 1786 was experimenting with driving a wheeled-carriage using a steam engine.
From about 1788 to 1790 Sadler was technical operator in the chemical laboratory at Oxford University.
1789-90 Gave public performances "of philosophical fire-works" in Oxford Town Hall.
Sadler was closely involved with Thomas Beddoes, reader at Oxford University; Beddoes and his friend William Reynolds encouraged Sadler to experiment further with his steam engine. This engine did not condense steam in the cylinder, which laid it open to claims of infringement by Boulton and Watt. It worked at a pressure of 19 pounds per square inch and was self-contained and direct acting.
1791 Boulton and Watt threatened Sadler over his supposed infringement of Watt's patent
1791 Patent (no. 1812 of June 1791) for a quite different type of steam engine, a rotatory engine.
His first wife probably died in or after 1791
1792-99 Several Sadler engines were built and erected at Coalbrookdale, and in London.
1793 Beddoes left Oxford. He sent Sadler to London to set up his Pneumatic Institute but Bristol was soon chosen instead.
1795 Appointed barracks master at Portsmouth.
1796 Appointed chemist to the board of naval works in London.
1795 Married a second time to Martha Hancock in Bristol; they had a son (William) Windham Sadler (1796–1824) in October 1796.
Sadler also established a mineral water factory near Golden Square in London.
1798 Patent for a double-cylinder engine
1799 Erected the Admiralty's first steam engine at Portsmouth. Sadler researched copper sheathing of ships (with Humphrey Davy), distillation of sea water, seasoning of timber, and gunpowder combustion, and constructed air-pumps, signal lights, and apparatus for producing oxygen. Outside his naval work Sadler tried to improve alum making. He was elected a life subscriber to the Royal Institution in 1799.
At some point was involved with his friend, Revd Dr Henry Peter Stacy, in gun-boring experiments in London.
1810 Resumed aeronautics professionally, using his balloon trademark to sell soda water.
By 1815 Sadler had achieved his forty-seventh ascent.
From 1824 Sadler lived in the London Charterhouse from the second quarter of 1824. His son Windham was killed in a ballooning accident in September.
1827 Moved back to Oxford to live with his family.
1828 Died in Oxford on 26 March, in George Lane.
Sources of Information
- Steam Locomotion on Common Roads by William Fletcher. Published 1891.
- Stuart's History of the Steam Engine. 1824
- Biography of James Sadler, ODNB