John Jeffries 1744-1819
An American-born physician, Jeffries established a medical practice in Boston around 1770, but his Loyalist sympathies led him to serve in the British army, and in 1779, to move his family to England. In 1783, he viewed a balloon flight near London, and from that moment on, ballooning was, in his words, "my ruling passion." He financed two voyages for himself and Jean Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman with experience in balloon flight. Jeffries wished to make scientific and meteorological observations, and purchased instruments for that purpose. The first flight took place in London; the second, on January 7, 1785, took them across the English Channel into France. Wishing to garner a reputation as a serious man of science through the publication of an account of his balloon voyages, he first had it read before the Royal Society of London. In the meantime, he had his portrait done in pastels by John Russell; it celebrated his second voyage, and included his specially designed costume and the barometer on display in this exhibition.
Jeffries's adventure did make him famous; and he augmented this reputation through the distribution of his Narrative, which was published in the spring of 1786. It included this engraving after the pastel, and text that details the danger experienced by the aeronauts before their successful landing in France.
Title image: Culpeper-type microscope/ Courtesy National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.