Tuesday, June 28, 2016

George Pocock and his inflatable globes

George Pocock was a remarkable man who I found out about becaume of a fabulous "inflatable globe." Pocock ran a boarding school, Pocock’s Academy, for “young gentlemen,” and besides his pedagogical career, Pocock was an evangelistic preacher, church organist, and ingenious inventor.

The inventions I will discuss below were a series of inflatable globes for students, but Pocock also invented a “thrashing machine” for punishing errant students, constructed with a rotating wheel with artificial hands to spank the offending schoolboy.

Pocock was a proponent of the science of “aeropleusitcs,” that is the use of kites for transportation. In part to avoid the hated horse tax, Pocock invented a carriage, called a “charvolent,” which was powered by kites! This carriage did present some problems, such as making sure the kites were not entangled in trees, and the problem of possibly being becalmed when out, the solution for which was that Pocock had a spare horse carried on a cart pulled behind the charvolent.

Of particular interest to me is Pocock design and production of three sizes of portable globes. The idea was that there were “disadvantages arising from the importability of globes of the usual construction,” whereas the inflatable globes were easily carried, stored and used. An advertisement for the globes says “These Globes are extremely portable, and when inflated form the most elegant and useful ornament of the Drawing-room or Library.” The globes were designed to be inflated either using a pump or by hand, where Pocock instructed that one should “Unfold the Globe, and taking it in one hand, holding by the hoop at the southern extremity, wave it to and fro horizontally...then place the Globe so that the hoop or orifice rests on the ground, and taking hold of the little stud at the top, raise the sphere gently from the ground and let it down again...”

The globes do not seem to have sold that well, or at least those which were made were mostly destroyed over time as very few exist. However, the Royal Family did present one of these globes to Price George of Cumberland in 1830. The globe displays considerable geographic information, especially of the British colonies, and includes tracks of various voyages of exploration (for instance those of Cabot, Cook, and Vancouver) and notes of historic interest (for instance references to the Mutiny on the Bounty, James Cook’s death, and Bonaparte’s banishment to St. Helena). A remarkable production from a remarkable man.


  1. This globe design is quite interesting, made me think of the Betts folding globe , that came later maybe influenced by this globe? Your example looks remarkably well preserved for such a fragile item.