Back at work today. It was all a bit lonely. I arrived and was told by Maria (I think her name is Maria but I’ve never actually been introduced and have just overheard someone call her Maria but I’m not sure it was her because she sits in the other office, behind the wall) that Nick (my boss) was rushed off to hospital last week and was having heart surgery! Ailsa (Nick’s boss) was off sitting by her phone because her daughter is in hospital for some reason and Barbara’s tube train was delayed (as usual). So I had the luxury of taking things very slowly, re-familiarising myself with MIMSY.
Today I learned about an amazing guy called Thomas Scott Baldwin (actually there’s some debate about his middle name but it’s not important so I’ll ignore it). He was American, born in Missouri in 1854, and led, what has to be, one of the most dare-devilish lives imaginable.
He was orphaned when his parents were both killed in front of him by marauding renegades during the Civil War. He was 12. He was fostered out but didn’t like that and ran away at 14 to work on the railway as a brakeman.
During his off hours he’d do somersaults on the train carriages and a circus manager just happened to spot him doing this. He offered Thomas a job in his circus.
With the circus he started as an acrobat, progressed to the high wire and, eventually, would go up and down in a balloon. Apparently audiences loved this so much, he managed to save enough to buy his own balloon and branch out on his own.
Time passed and, eventually, Tom, who now called himself Captain, decided to add something else to the act. So he invented the light weight parachute. He approached a guy about paying him $1 for every foot he fell from the balloon, with a maximum of 2,000 feet. The guy leapt at the offer and they both made a lot of money.
He then became all a-flutter about the new airships that were making such a splash on the world. He went to France to look at how they were built then, returning to America, got together with a motor bike mechanic called Glenn Curtiss to build his own.
The army saw the potential in them and had him knock one up for them.
Not satisfied with dirigibles, Baldwin watched as the Wright brothers flew their magnificent plane a few feet. He nodded his head and went home. He put pen to paper and design and eventually built, his own bi-plane. He then flew it up and down a river going underneath the bridges. Crazy guy.
He was one hell of a dare devil and a great one for seeing the profit in new things. I dips me lid to you, Captain Tom.
I thought I’d try out the camera on my new phone today. Here’s the result. This is near the group entrance at the Science Museum and up the road from Imperial College.