Montgolfier balloon flight, 1783

Montgolfier balloon flight, 1783

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Montgolfier balloon flight. Illustration of the first animal ascent in a balloon ascent, made in a Montgolfier balloon in 1783. The spherical balloon used in the ascent is at left, with an earlier prototype filling with smoke at right. This is the balloon the Montgolfier brothers built in St Germain for their 19 September 1783 demonstration in Versailles. The cage held domestic animals as it was felt to be too dangerous for humans to fly. The prospect of 'expendable' criminals had been put forward, but the King thought that 'no such scoundrel' should be the first to gain the glory of flight. There was a large crowd of nobles and dignitaries including King Louis XVI. The balloon rose to an estimated 1700 feet and travelled over 10,200 feet from the point of departure. The animals on board survived, giving hope for a manned flight to follow shortly. The new balloon for that purpose was built in the gardens of Faubourg St Antoine. 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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