We are currently seeking submissions for future volumes of Culture and Cosmos.
Dr Katterfelto and the Prehistory of Astronomical Ballooning
Abstract: Regular telescopic astronomical observations made from balloons began after World War II, though scientific, particularly meteorological, ballooning dates from the mid-nineteenth century. However, astronomical ballooning has a curious prehistory at the dawn of lighter-than-air travel in the 1780s. The self-styled Dr Katterfelto (c.1743?-99) was a German-born travelling showman, lecturer and considerable self-publicist who in 1784-85 claimed to have made important astronomical discoveries from observations made from a balloon. It is unlikely that he made any such observations, or, indeed, any balloon flights. However, the episode throws some light on the world of the itinerant, eighteenth-century astronomical lecturer and the diffusion of contemporary astronomical and scientific knowledge.