January 7, 1785 - The first successful flight across the English Channel was on this day. A French inventor named Jean-Pierre Blanchard and an American doctor named John Jeffries set off in a hydrogen balloon.
The harrowing trip took 2.5 hours. The balloon was overburdened with all kinds of stuff they didn't need, like anchors and silk-covered wings that were supposed to propel them along like a bird. Desperate to shed every ounce of extraneous weight, the aviators relieved themselves repeatedly. Blanchard even tossed his pants overboard to lighten the load. Miraculously they survived the crossing and slammed into a tree near Calais, France.
15 years earlier, John Jeffries played another major role in history as the star witness for the defense in the Boston Massacre case. As the attending physician to Patrick Carr, an Irish immigrant who was mortally wounded by British soldiers, Jeffries was able to testify about Carr's dying words which supported the defense argument that the soldiers had actually shown restraint after prolonged badgering by the crowd. It's an account that is still disputed.
Jeffries would go on to have an illustrious career as both a daring aeronaut and a pioneering surgeon in New England. He famously tried to give the first lecture on anatomy in Boston, only to be interrupted by an angry mob that hauled off his cadaver.
He died in 1819.