Montgolfier Brothers - The Montgolfière-style Hot Air Balloon
Montgolfier Brothers, namely Joseph-Michel Montgolfier (1740 - 1810) and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (1745 - 1799) were the inventors of the first hot air
balloon that safely carried people into the sky and back to earth.
They were children of Pierre Montgolfier, paper manufacturer in Annonay, France, and Anne Duret who had sixteen children. Joseph was the 12th child while
Étienne was the 15th. Joseph was a dreamer, and impractical in terms of business and personal affairs - real features of an inventor. His brother, on the
other hand, Étienne had more of a knack for business but because he was a trouble to his elder siblings, he was sent to Paris to train as an architect.
When their father died in 1772, Étienne was recalled to Annonay to run the family business which he improved in the next 10 years.
In the 1777 Joseph was inspired by laundry drying over a fire that formed pockets of hot air and raised laundry upwards to make a flying machine. He that
smoke has a special gas, which he called “Montgolfier Gas”, with a special property he called “levity: that can lift things in the air. He made his first
experiments in November 1782. He made a small box construction that had dimensions of 1x1x1.3 m out of light wood and covered it with lightweight taffeta
cloth. When he made fire under it it quickly lifted. He convicted his brother Étienne to build a larger balloon together. They made a larger balloon scaled
up by three and they launched it on 14 December 1782 when they lost control of the machine which flew nearly two kilometers and was destroyed after landing
by the "indiscretion of passersby”.
They held the first public presentation of a hot air balloon in front of at Annonay in front of a group of dignitaries on June 4, 1783. Balloon crossed
2km, its flight lasted 10 minutes and its maximum altitude was 2,000m. News about a new flying machine quickly reached Paris and Étienne was sent there to
make further demonstrations. He found a successful wallpaper manufacturer Jean-Baptiste Réveillon and with him made a large hot air balloon (1,060 m3)
which was tested at first in private on the 11th September and then presented to public on 19th September 1783 carrying first living creatures: sheep, duck
and a rooster. Balloon stayed in air 8 minutes, crossed 3km and achieved height of 460m after which it safely landed. This flight was held in front of a
crowd at the royal palace in Versailles, before King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette.
The next balloon was even larger (1,700 m3) and was
launched while tethered on October 19, 1783 with the scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, the manufacture manager, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon and Giroud
de Villette as passengers. Same ballon was used for the first free human flight on November 21, 1783. De Rozier, and the Marquis François d'Arlandes were
the pilots of this flight although King Louis XVI wanted to use condemned criminals for this first flight. In 25 minutes they traveled 8km. They had enough
of fuel to fly four to five times as far but fire started burning the material out of which balloon was made so Pilâtre took off his coat and stopped the
fire as soon as they were over open countryside. This marks the starting point of the history of the human flight.
The Montgolfier Company that manufactures paper still exists in Annonay. Etienne de Montgolfier’s son-in-law, Barthélémy Barou de la Lombardière de Canson
succeeded him as the head of the company and in time company became Canson. It still produces still produces fine art papers and its products are sold all
over the world.