Don Cameron MBE

Don Cameron MBE was made a patron of Humanists UK for his contribution to the greater public understanding of science.

Aeronautical engineer and balloon manufacturer

Don Cameron was born in Glasgow in 1939. He attended Allan Glen's School in the city, after which he continued his formal education by reading Aeronautical Engineering at Glasgow University and obtaining a Master’s Degree at Cornell University in the USA in 1963. He then took up an appointment with the Bristol Aeroplane Company.  He qualified as a pilot of aeroplanes, gliders, balloons and airships, and he and a few friends who were members of Bristol Gliding Club formed the group that built the Bristol Belle, the first modern hot-air balloon in Western Europe, which flew in 1967. In 1970 his hobby was transformed into a commercial concern, Cameron Balloons Ltd, which has grown to become the largest constructor of balloons and airships in the world and has achieved many advances in the science of ballooning. These include the world’s first hot-air airship, the first special shape hot-air balloons, and many records, including the only two successful round-the-world balloon flights. He was the founder of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

Among his many ballooning achievements, Don Cameron was the first to cross the Alps and the Sahara by hot-air balloon. In 1990, he made the first balloon flight between the UK and what was then the USSR. In 1978, his attempt to make the first Atlantic crossing by balloon ended within sight of the French coast when bad weather forced his craft down. Undaunted, he achieved that goal in 1992, when he flew a balloon of his own design from Bangor, Maine, to Portugal and won second place in the first-ever trans-Atlantic balloon race.

Don Cameron has received a number of aviation honours including the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals of the Royal Aero Club, the Aero Club de France Aeronaut’s Medal and the prestigious Harmon Trophy, presented in the White House, Washington. He is listed in Who’s Who. He is the author of The Ballooning Handbook (Pelham).

He has also served as a Councillor,  Vice-Chairman and Chairman of Portishead Town Council, and in 2014 was awarded an MBE.

He has been interested in philosophy for more than 40 years. He traces his philosophical influences to his exposure to Euclidian geometry at an early age, his early study of mathematical decision theory and his readings in biological evolution, rather than to the traditional philosophy syllabus. He is Philosophy Convenor for the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, and his book The Purpose of Life (Woodhill) applies the ideas of mathematical decision theory to purpose and ethics.