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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Take off for balloonist project
Hot air balloon
Tytler was hailed as a hero after his balloon flight
A research project aiming to shed more light on the first British man to fly a hot air balloon has been launched.

As well as his most famous achievement, Angus-born James Tytler was also known for his tremendous bad luck and a string of failed business ventures.

Tytler made the famous flight in his Grand Edinburgh Fire Balloon in the Scottish capital in 1784.

A group of Dundee University students has now appealed for any information concerning him and his life.

The research project is being run by the university's Enterprise Gym - which offers students opportunities to develop entrepreneurial skills - and is also being supported by Angus Council.

Technical problems

"By exploring his enterprises in relation to the culture in which he lived, we may understand better the man and also, rather belatedly, bestow some credence to his life's work and celebrate his achievements," said a spokeswoman.

Tytler, a minister's son born in 1745 in Fearn, near Brechin, trained as a surgeon in Edinburgh and worked as a pharmacist - but also discovered he had a talent for writing and editing.

However despite his many talents and business ventures, his enterprises usually brought him only bad debts.

It was while he was editing the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica that his interest in air ballooning was sparked after researching the subject for the publication.

Tytler, who spent his last few years living in America before his death in 1804, scraped together the money to build and fly his balloon, despite being dogged by criticism and technical problems.

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