Journal article

Anti-Slavery, African colonization, and the natural history of ballooning

D Coleman

Romanticism | Edinburgh University Press | Published : 2019


Henry Smeathman (1742-86) was a self-taught naturalist who collected naturalia in West Africa and the West Indies for wealthy London sponsors. In 1783 he travelled to Paris with letters of introduction to Benjamin Franklin with the aim of finding supporters in either France or America for a free African settlement which would undermine the slave trade through 'legitimate' commerce. His arrival coincided with the launch of the Montgolfier balloons, followed by the race to invent a mode of aerial transportation. Drawing on Smeathman's eye-witness accounts of the ascents, many of which have never been published, this essay explores his use of biomimetics to design a steerable balloon which woul..

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University of Melbourne Researchers