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Despite early accidents such as this one, ballooning became a popular recreation, and these early flights inspired aviators to design more practical types of flying vessels, eventually leading to modern airplanes. Though not very useful for travel since they are slow and difficult to steer, balloons are still often used in atmospheric, meteorological, and astrophysical research.

APS News Archives. Librarians Authors Referees Media Students. Login Become a Member Contact Us. November Intrepid physicist is first to fly On November 21, , physicist Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier, along with the Marquis d'Arlandes, became the first humans to fly. Follow Us.


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This Month in Physics History. When it was about two hundred feet high, the brave adventurers held out and waved a little white pennant, on both sides their car, to salute the spectators, who returned loud claps of applause.

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The wind was very little, so that the object though moving to the northward, continued long in view; and it was a great while before the admiring people began to disperse. The persons embarked were Mr. Charles, professor of experimental philosophy, and a zealous promoter of that science; and one of the Messieurs Robert, the very ingenious constructors of the machine. When it arrived at its height, which I suppose might be three or four hundred toises, [ A toise was a distance of about 2 meters ] it appeared to have only horizontal motion.

I write this at seven in the evening. What became of them is not yet known here. I hope they descended by daylight, so as to see and avoid falling among trees or on houses, and that the experiment was completed without any mischievous accident, which the novelty of it and the want of experience might well occasion.

History of ballooning

I am the more anxious for the event, because I am not well informed of the means provided for letting themselves down, and the loss of these very ingenious men would not only be a discouragement to the progress of the art, but be a sensible loss to science and society. I shall inclose one of the tickets of admission, on which the globe was represented, as originally intended, but is altered by the pen to show its real state when it went off.

When the tickets were engraved the car was to have been hung to the neck of the globe, as represented by a little drawing I have made in the corner. I suppose it may have been an apprehension of danger in straining too much the balloon or tearing the silk, that induced the constructors to throw a net over it, fixed to a hoop which went round its middle, and to hang the car to that hoop.

Tuesday morning, December 2d.

Benjamin Franklin and the First Balloons by Abbott Lawren Rotch & Benjamin Franklin

This place is near seven leagues from Paris. Had the wind blown fresh they might have gone much farther. If I receive any further particulars of importance, I shall communicate them hereafter. With great esteem, I am, dear sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,. Tuesday evening. I hear further that the travellers had perfect command of their carriage, descending as they pleased by letting some of the inflammable air escape, and rising again by discharging some sand; that they descended over a field so low as to talk with the labourers in passing, and mounted again to pass a hill.

Benjamin Franklin: The Founding Father

The little balloon falling at Vincennes shows that mounting higher it met with a current of air in a contrary direction, an observation that may be of use to future aerial voyagers. From Nathan G.

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Coodman, ed. Hydrogen costs a lot more and takes days to generate, but it also has five times the lifting force and you don't need a fire to stay aloft. He mentions some work being done on a gas made from sea coal, but he doesn't yet know its relative lifting force. The day after he wrote Ingenhousz was Franklin's 78th birthday. One can only wonder how history might've been changed if that ever-active, ever-curious observer, Ben Franklin, had still been around to cheer that one on.

I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work. For more on the first use of hydrogen, see Episode For more on the first American balloon ascent, made in Philadelphia, see Episode Click here for audio of Episode Lienhard Click here for audio of Episode My thanks to UH Mech.