George Cayley to Société Aérostatique et Météorologique de France, 3 Jan 1854

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Cayley responds to a letter from the Société, sent to eminent aeronautical authorities by MM. Mondot de Lagorce, Ysabeau, and Dupuis-Delcourt, regarding plans for a long-duration aeronautical mission.

A French translation was made of Cayley's response and appears with it in the file.

Preliminary transcript:

Having directed my attention chiefly to the means of aerial navigation by engine power, I beg to offer my observations on the subject of this address, with that diffidence due to first thoughts, un[-?] by mature reflection and more [especially?] because I have not had the benefit of being present at the meeting of the Society when this project has been, no doubt, most ably discussed.

Nothing can be more in conformity with the title and joint objects of the Society, than to make the greatest use of Balloons our present knowledge admits of, in the advancement of our meteorological science.

Supposing that all the difficulties in constructing & maintaining such a Balloon for a month in full buoyancy to be overcome, the first thing that strikes the imagination is the extreme danger to which so many bold, adventurous & scientific men must be exposed in order to obtain a chance of realising the object in view. As the balloon must follow the course of every current of air it encounters, and as the sea occupies about three times the space of the land on ourplanet: the chances are 3 to 1 on any unforseen disastrous descent, that the parties must meet a watery grave & all their observations perish with them: granting them the choice of only descending on land, the chances of forzen regions of inhospitable ice, or of barbarous tribes, of savages may have to be encountered, with equal loss of life.

Under these views it appears to me that in our haste to do something worthy of the Society, we are placing the "cart before the horse" and that such noble meteorological attempts must wait till more safety can be obtained by the steerage of the Balloon, an epoch, which under the auspices of our rapidly [grow?]ing Society in the Parisian centre of European science, cannot be far distant.

When ever aerial navigation becomes habitual to the human race, meteorological observations in every clime will accumulate till some of the []ing atmospheric laws will be ascertained. But I much doubt that all the observations made in a wandering, wind guided, ascension would be so conducive to the science of meteorology, as in a stationary balloon anchored at the proposed elevation for a month in any convenient place, and this the society might effect without much personal danger; [but leave] to my view [] invert again the proper order of proceeding, we send to a heavy cargo of men & instruments in a huge balloon of great cost up into frozen regions, where they are exposed to great inconvenience & where correct observations of the phenomena below the immediate portion of the balloon, become very difficult. Why not reverse this order of things & send up a small balloon sufficient to [] all the instruments, not only attached to the balloon, but several other sets, suspended to the rope at convenient intervals, so as to present, to a telescopic view below, a visible index of all the [?] required. Thus an index [worked?] by the barometer, or aneroid, on [others?] by the anemometer. Third by the thermometer and a fourth by the pluviometer, might be all shown on contiguous transparent disks.# A colored flag from each station would show the direction of the wind. & an electrical wire, well coated & insulated, from each of these positions could be tested below, as to the tension of the positive or negative electricity shown at these different elevations. The length of rope from the bottom would not be a correct measure of its altitude, but an [ang...] observation would determine this point correctly, for it & the other stations.

I am of opinion that if this stationary balloon project were carried into effect near Paris, it would tend strongly to call attention to the Society, & to increases its numbers and power; it is more within the pecuniary command of the Society than the expensive scheme proposed; & after persons have contributed what they think proper towards the commencement of the Society, few things can tend more to cut down its [in...] than attempts to exceed the limits of its funds, & care for additional supplies.

Brompton, Jan. the 3d, 1854 George Cayley

# An Hygrometer would also be desirable.


Sender George Cayley
Recipient Société Aérostatique et Météorologique de France
Date sent 3 Jan 1854
From location Brompton, England
To location Paris, France
Communication type submission
Language en
Refers to flight? 1
Tech fields LTA, balloon, meteorology, captive, instrument, electricity, finance
Length (in words) 704
Full text available

[Communication type: Submission? Symposium? ..?]