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'Transporting thought': cultures of balloon flight in Britain, 1784-1785.


The balloon has long drifted through popular discourse as a symbol of an Enlightenment attitude towards discovery and a Romanticized image of rationality. This article uses two accounts of early British balloon voyages, both published in 1786, and through them attempts to understand the wide range of practices - literary, social, chemical and adventurous - employed by early balloonists in Britain. I argue that the two series of flights recorded by John Jeffries and Vincenzo Lunardi can be read to show two different philosophical ideas of and aspirations for ballooning, each of which is tied to a different British location, and established a different paradigm for the public reception of flight experiments in later years.