John Mackenzie Bacon

John Mackenzie Bacon [1846 – 1904].

Rev John Bacon spent 10 years at Cambridge University (1865-1875), whilst there witnessed aballoon ascent – and vowed to make one at sometime.

For 12 years (1876 to 1889), he was a Vicar in rural Berkshire.In 1889 he gave up his clerical work to devote his time to Science, Astronomy, Photography and Aeronautics.

On 20 Aug 1888 he took his first balloon flight with Captain Dale of the Crystal Palace Company cheered on by 20,000 people at a temperance demonstration “the most noteworthy feature of which seemed to be the very large number of intoxicated people taking part.”In his amusing account he describes the flight over London landing in Hatfield: “Just westwards of Blackfriars Bridge we shot across the Thames, and sailed above the chimney pots of Ludgate Hill close over St Paul’s, whose cross was dwarfed to the humble level of the streets. There was no haze nor trace of smoke that lovely summer evening, and every detail of the great capital lay mapped out below us … In two respects the appearance of the streets was remarkable. They were not nearly so closely crowded as to passengers they seem to be, and the traffic what there was seemed to scarcely moving. But one could grasp as never before what were the lungs of London and what her arteries.”

His other interests included gardening, microscopy, photography, astronomy, he conducted experiments on magnetism, and he and his 12-year-old son installed electric lights in the house.

After his wife, Gertrude, died in 1894 he took his two children on a cycle tour of Belgium then in 1896 they travelled to Norway to view the total eclipse of the sun. They repeated their observations seventeen months later in India and in 1900 in Wadesborough, USA.