'Jacobean Space Programme' (John Wilkins; 17th Century)

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Cromwellian Mission too the moon ?

More than 300 years before the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellites and American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on to the Moon, England had its own ambitious space programme.
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See later post for excerpts from the original article.
 
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Stormkhan

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This project was canned by the great Commonwealth being supplanted by that twerp Charles II!
 

Anome

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Somehow a spaceship from that period wouldn't have inspired confidence for me.

Maybe something to do with the use of gunpowder as a propellant.
 

Stormkhan

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So what'd you suggest?

An explosive liquid under pressure and a highly flammable gas also under pressure? Mix them, ignite it and sit on top of the whole damn thing?

Don't be silly!

Oh ... recommended reading:

Bob Shaw - "The Ragged Astronauts"
 

river_styx

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Would a puritan like Cromwell really have agreed to the notion of trying to fly above the heavens?

It just strikes me as odd that he would have allowed any of his relatives to pursue such an adventure without considering it an insult to god or witchcraft.
 

wembley8

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"Would a puritan like Cromwell really have agreed to the notion of trying to fly above the heavens?"

Absolutely! The Puritans were very much pro-science and against all that Papist stuff of the truth being handed down via the Vatican.

Cf Isaac Newton....
 

river_styx

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See I just hear Puritan and think where's the fun in that then...

Damn me.
 

EnolaGaia

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Cromwellian Mission too the moon ?
The article linked from the opening post is MIA. Here are excerpts from the original article, salvaged from the Wayback Machine.
Cromwell's moonshot: how one Jacobean scientist tried to kick off the space race
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
10 October 2004

More than 300 years before the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellites and American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on to the Moon, England had its own ambitious space programme.

It came in the shape of a 17th-century clergyman who drew up plans for a spaceship powered by wings, springs and gunpowder ... According to Professor Allan Chapman of Oxford University, it was the first serious attempt at a manned flight to the Moon.

The man behind the lunar mission was Dr John Wilkins, scientist, theologian and brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell. In 1640, as a young man of 26, Dr Wilkins wrote a detailed description of the machinery needed to communicate and even trade with beings from another world.

"It was the first serious suggestion of space flight based on the best documentary evidence available to them at the time," said Professor Chapman, who will present his findings tomorrow night at a public lecture at Gresham College, London. ...

According to Dr Wilkins, the gravitational and magnetic pull of the Earth extended for only 20 miles into the sky. If it were possible to get airborne and pass beyond this point, it would be easy to continue on a journey to the Moon. Inspired by the discovery of other continents and the great sea voyages of explorers such as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, Wilkins conceived an equally ambitious plan to explore space. ...

Dr Wilkins drew up plans for what he called a flying chariot powered by clockwork and springs, a set of flapping wings coated with feathers and a few gunpowder boosters to help send it on its way. ...

By the 1660s, the idea began to fall apart with the work of Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke, who demonstrated the nature of the vacuum that would stretch between the Earth and the Moon.

"He also came to realise that magnetism and gravity are not the same thing. So there was not going to be what Wilkins described as a 'sphere of magnetic virtue' 20 miles around the Earth which once you break through that will allow you to float out into space," Professor Chapman said.

Wilkins also had some other peculiar ideas of space travel that would make it easy to travel the quarter of a million miles to the Moon. He believed, for instance, that in space, men would not have much need for food.

"In space we wouldn't need to eat because the reason why we need to eat on Earth is that the pull of gravity pulls food through our bodies and constantly empties our stomachs," Professor Chapman explained.

Unfortunately, Wilkins never had the chance to test his theories, and what Professor Chapman terms the Jacobean Space Programme was grounded.
SOURCE (And Full Article):
https://web.archive.org/web/2004101....co.uk/uk/this_britain/story.jsp?story=570495
 

EnolaGaia

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The Independent article cited earlier was reporting on the following October 2004 lecture:

The Jacobean Space Programme - Wings, springs and gunpowder: flying to the moon from 17th century England
11 October 2004
Professor Allan Chapman

A full transcript of the lecture - as well as a link for downloading the transcript as a PDF file - is available at the Gresham College website:

https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-...springs-and-gunpowder-flying-to-the-moon-from
 

EnolaGaia

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This January 2014 Science Daily article provides additional information on Wilkins' life based on Professor Chapman's research.
The 'jacobean space programme': Rediscovering bishop John Wilkins

... Prof. Allan Chapman of Wadham College, University of Oxford, has investigated a less well-known pioneer, John Wilkins, who was born 400 years ago this month. His achievements include a plan for 'mechanical' space travel, the popularisation of astronomy, managing to negotiate the politics and privations of the English Civil War and helping to found the Royal Society. ...

John Wilkins was born in Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire, on 1 January 1614. A graduate of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, he was ordained as a priest in the Church of England, before travelling widely in the UK and to Germany to meet contemporary scholars. In 1638 he published 'The Discovery of a New World' and then in 1640 'A Discourse Concerning a New Planet'. The frontispiece of the later book shows his affinity for the Copernican model of the Solar system, with the Polish astronomer and Galileo both prominent. Just as significantly, the illustration shows the stars extending to infinity, rather than being in a then conventional 'fixed sphere' just beyond Saturn.

With the two works, Wilkins used clear, concise English to popularise a new understanding of the universe, arguing passionately against the theories of Aristotle that dated back 2000 years. He understood how these ancient ideas (for example that it was in the nature of heavy objects to fall, whereas light materials like smoke would rise) had been fundamentally undermined by scientific discoveries. The model of the cosmos had completely changed over the course of the century since Copernicus. ...

Remarkably, Wilkins also speculated on space travel in his 1640 work. He considered the problems of travel to the Moon, including overcoming the gravitational pull of the Earth, the coldness of space and what the 'sky voyagers' would eat during a journey that he thought would take about 180 days.

In 1648, after becoming Master of Wadham College in Oxford, Wilkins expanded these ideas in 'Mathematical Magick', a book which describes machines and how systems of gears, pulleys and springs make at first sight insurmountable tasks possible. There he discusses a 'flying chariot', a ship like vehicle with bird's wings, powered by springs and gears that would carry the astronauts on their six month journey. Robert Hooke's posthumous diary suggests that he and Wilkins may even have built a model of this aircraft.

Chapman comments, "John Wilkins was the first person to discuss space travel from a scientific and technological perspective rather than as an aspect of fantasy literature. In his writing he initiates a 'Jacobean Space Programme', a serious proposal for travelling to other worlds."

These achievements are remarkable in their own right and more so given the turmoil England faced at the time. ... A consummate diplomat, Wilkins even managed to marry Cromwell's sister, took on the post at Wadham after opponents of Cromwell were purged and yet made the College a centre of tolerance that hosted a club of scientists.

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1659, Wilkins was removed from his next post as Master of Trinity College, Cambridge but nonetheless went on to found and become Secretary of the Royal Society and was appointed Bishop of Chester in 1668. He died in 1671.

Prof. Chapman sees 2014, the four hundredth anniversary of Wilkins' birth, as a good time to reflect on the life of a remarkable figure in seventeenth century science: ...

"His thinking was far ahead of his time. By the time of his death in 1672, new scientific discoveries had shown that the moon voyage of 1638 was impossible. And humanity would have to wait another 300 years before getting into space."
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109175549.htm
 

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The first (1638) edition of Wilkins' book outlining his view of the moon as a habitable world:

The Discovery of a World in the Moone
Or, A Discovrse Tending To Prove That 'Tis Probable There May Be Another Habitable World In That Planet


... is accessible via Project Gutenberg:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19103

NOTE: It was the heavily revised and augmented second (1640) edition which provided the more elaborated discussion of the prospects for reaching the moon.
 

eburacum

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Curiously enough, the 'sphere of magnetic virtue' that extends only 20 miles into space is consistent with the way a lot of the public seem to imagine the effects of Earth's gravity. Surely when you get into space you are outside the gravitational pull of the Earth? That must be why astronauts float.

Nope; the effects of Earth's gravity extend to the edge of the universe. Something Newton realised, perhaps for the first time, a couple of decades later. (A chap named Borelli may have got there first.)
 
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