Former RMS President’s exploits brought to the Big Screen

Ballooning adventures of James Glaisher are chronicled in major new film

The high-altitude feats of a former RMS president have been reimagined in a star-studded cinematic release.

The Aeronauts, which hit British screens earlier this month, tells the tale of meteorologist and astronomer James Glaisher, who led the Society from 1865 to 1888.

Glaisher, portrayed in the film by Oscar-winning heartthrob Eddie Redmayne, is remembered chiefly for his exploits as a pioneering balloonist, which included breaking the flight altitude record alongside co-pilot Henry Coxwell. Fans of historical accuracy have baulked at Coxwell’s replacement in The Aeronauts by fictitious female lead, Amelia Wren, played by Felicity Jones, though some critics have praised Amelia as an important, aspirational female character.

Between 1862 and 1866, the impressively-whiskered Glaisher became famous for his numerous ascents to measure the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere at its highest levels. During his record-breaking flight on 5 September 1862, he passed out at around 8,800 metres before a reading could be taken. Estimates suggest that he rose to more than 9,500 metres and as high as 10,900 metres (35,000 feet) above sea-level.

In addition to the RMS Presidency, Glaisher was a founding member of the Meteorological Society and the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain. He was president of the Royal Meteorological Society from 1867 to 1868, and also led the Royal Photographic Society.


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