Joseph Montolfier, a French papermaker, wondered why smoke wafted upward in his chimney. His brother, Etienne and he also wondered how the clouds were suspended in the sky. The brothers designed a 38-foot diameter silk bag lined with paper and open at the bottom. In June 1783, they placed it above a charcoal fire. The balloon went up 6000 feet and traveled laterally 1-1/2 kilometers before the air cooled and the bag came down.
Three months later a sheep, rooster and duck were airborne, in a flight witnessed by both the King of France and Benjamin Franklin. One month later, two other men, Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis d'Arlandes, funded by the King of France, flew the first manned flight, above the heads of 400,000 of their amazed fellow citizens.
In time, balloonists flew the
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* If you would like to know this story, and many others, read Why the Wind Blows : A History of Weather and Global Warming by Matthys Levy (2007).