West Berkshire inventor listed in hot air balloon Hall of Fame

The Federation Aeronautique Internationale’s Ballooning Hall of Fame recently welcomed the Rev John M Bacon into its ranks.

The famous inventor of the petrol burner was a resident of Cold Ash from the 1870s until 1904 and is widely recognised as a key figure in the ballooning world.

His contribution has been recognised at the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum in New Mexico. As well as envisioning a balloon that would include liquid petroleum burners, he also put this theory into practice by building a burner containing copper coils and a pressurised fuelling system.

He was also hailed as a pioneering aerial photographer of the Victorian era after capturing images of the countryside during a flight in 1888.

After this, Bacon flew multiple times in a coal gas balloon from Newbury Gasworks on Kings Road, attracting plenty of local attention and inspiring his fans to even witness his flights leaving late at night.

Eventually, the Newbury Guild Hall Club for Young Men made him its president in 1893.

Fred Davidson, a retired scientist, said that Bacon was something of a celebrity, and appeared frequently in the local news. He explained:

“He was a great philanthropist and a great pyro-technician. He once made an 8ft rocket, and his firework displays were the talk of the town.”

In 1889, Bacon was given the title of ‘Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society’, after building an observatory and conducting a number of expeditions to take a closer look at solar eclipses.

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