Culture and Cosmos is a peer-reviewed academic journal in the history of astrology and cultural astronomy published in association with the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Vol 18 no 2 (Autumn/Winter 2014 will be published in July/August 2016. Vol. 19 (2015) will be a double issue featuring the proceedings of the 2013 Sophia Centre conference on Celestial Magic and is scheduled for publication in September/October 2016. Vol. 20 (2016) will be a double issue featuring the proceedings of the 2014 Sophia Centre conference on the Marriage of Heaven and Earth.

Volume 18

Dr Katterfelto and the Prehistory of Astronomical Ballooning

Clive Davenhall


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.

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