Charles and Roberts' balloon, 1783

Charles and Roberts' balloon, 1783


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Charles and Robert's balloon. Illustration of the first hydrogen balloon designed by French balloonist Jacques Charles (1746-1823) and the Robert brothers (Anne-Jean Robert, 1758-1820; Nicolas-Louis Robert, 1760-1820). They launched their balloon on 27 August 1783 from the Champ-de-Mars (now the site of the Eiffel tower). A large crowd of onlookers observed with excitement and chased the unmanned balloon 21 kilometres to its point of landing in the village of Gonesse. When the designers reached the balloon they found local villagers had attacked it with a knife and pitchforks. Among the crowd who watched the ascent was Benjamin Franklin. He realised its potential, and when later asked what use was such a balloon he replied 'well, what use is a baby?'. This engraving, by Andrew Bell (1726-1809), is part of Plate 314 from the third edition (1797-1803) of the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica'.

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