Today, August 26, marks French inventor Joseph-Michel Montgolfier's 274th birth anniversary. Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and his brother Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier were the inventors of the Montgolfière-style hot air balloon, globe aérostatique. They have also received credit for successfully launching the first manned ascent.
We pay tribute to the inventor on the occassion of his birthday by presenting a collection of interesting facts and trivia about the hot air balloon...
Montgolfier wasn't the first
Experiments in flight using balloons predates the Montgolfiers. Early unmanned hot air balloons were used in China. Zhuge Liang of the Shu Han kingdom, during the Three Kingdoms era (220–280 AD) used airborne lanterns known as Kongming lanterns for military signaling.
The first manned flight
The Montgolfier brothers, who developed their hot air balloon in Annonay, Ardeche, France, held a public demonstration with an unmanned flight lasting 10 minutes in September 19, 1783. However, the first balloon flight with humans aboard was performed around October 15, 1783 by Etienne Montgolfier. It was termed a tethered flight. Etienne made at least one tethered flight from the yard of the Reveillon workshop in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
An undated illustration depicting the historic event
The first free manned flight took place on November 21, 1783, when Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and Marquis d'Arlandes piloted a hot air balloon (built by the Montgolfier brothers) from the Château de la Muette to the Butte-aux-Cailles, Paris.
The first use of a hot air balloon in battle
The first military use of a hot air balloon happened during the battle of Fleurus in Europe (1794), with the French using the balloon l'Entreprenant as an observation post.
An illustration depicting the battle of Fleurus. The hot air balloon can be seen in the image on the top right corner
The first women to fly the balloon
The Marchioness and Countess of Montalembert, the Countess of Podenas and Miss de Lagarde ascended in a tethered balloon over Paris, on May 20, 1784. Elizabeth Thible was the first woman to fly in an untethered balloon. She flew over Lyon singing arias on June 4, 1784, in order to entertain Gustav III of Sweden.
The first hot air balloon mishap
On May 10, 1785, the town of Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland, was seriously damaged when the crash of a hot air balloon resulted in a fire that burned down about 100 houses.
The first known fatalities in a hot air balloon crash
Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and Pierre Romain died when their Rozière balloon deflated and crashed to the ground near Wimereux in the Pas-de-Calais in northern France, on June 15, 1785.
Members of the legendary British Comedy troupe Monty Python spoofed the Montgolfier brothers on an episode of their hit TV show, 'Monty Python's Flying Circus'. It was titled, 'The Golden Age of Ballooning'.