Wednesday, November 21, 2007

 

This Day in the History of French Savior Faire

On this day in 1783, Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier, a professor of physics and chemistry, and the Marquis Francois Laurant d'Arlandes became the first European men to fly (as opposed to just jumping from heights). Their hot-air balloon lifted off from La Muettte, a royal palace in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris. They flew nearly 6 miles in 25 minutes, reaching an altitude of around 300-ft. Spectators included Ben Franklin and King Louis XVI, who offered to send up two prisoners, but Rozier wanted the glory of being the first to go into the atmosphere. Most of us, probably based on an often played episode of Monty Python, think it was the Montgolfier brothers, √Čtienne and Joseph, who first flew in a hot air balloon. Nope. Those guys had publicly demonstrated the first unmanned hot-air balloon a few months earlier, on 5 June 1783, but they were too chicken to go themselves and had sent up a second balloon manned by animals on 19 September 1783 to verify that air travel was safe for living beings. Except for a fire or hard landing, what were they afraid of?

(h/t Today in Science History)

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