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Montgolfier brothers

montgolfier brothers, montgolfier brothers hot air balloon
Joseph-Michel Montgolfier 26 August 1740 – 26 June 1810 and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier 6 January 1745 – 2 August 1799 were paper manufacturers from Annonay, in Ardèche, France best known as inventors of the Montgolfière-style hot air balloon, globe aérostatique They launched the first piloted ascent, carrying Étienne Joseph Michel also invented the self-acting hydraulic ram 1796, Jacques Étienne founded the first paper making vocational school and the brothers invented a process to manufacture transparent paper


  • 1 Early years
  • 2 Hot air balloon experiments, 1782-84
    • 21 Early balloon experiments, 1782
    • 22 Public demonstrations, summer 1783
    • 23 Piloted flight, fall 1783
    • 24 Other balloons, competing claims
  • 3 Other Montgolfier inventions
  • 4 Death, the Montgolfier company
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

Early yearsedit

The Montgolfier brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne were born into a family of paper manufacturers founded in 1557 in Annonay, in Ardèche, France1 Their parents were Pierre Montgolfier 1700–1793 and his wife, Anne Duret 1701–1760, who had 162 children Pierre Montgolfier established his eldest son, Raymond 1730–1772, as his successor

Joseph-Michel was the 12th child and was described as a maverick and dreamer,"a typical inventor's temperament" and was impractical in terms of business and personal affairs Étienne was the 15th child, had a much more even and businesslike temperament and was sent to Paris to train as an architect After the sudden and unexpected death of Raymond in 1772, he was recalled to Annonay to run the family business In the subsequent 10 years, Étienne applied his talent for technical innovation to the family business of paper making, which then as now was a high-tech industry He succeeded in incorporating the latest Dutch innovations of the day into the family millscitation needed

Hot air balloon experiments, 1782-84edit

Early balloon experiments, 1782edit

Of the two brothers, it was Joseph who was first interested in aeronautics, as early as 1775 he built parachutes, and once jumped from the family house He first contemplated building machines when he observed laundry drying over a fire incidentally form pockets that billowed upwards3 Joseph made his first definitive experiments in November 1782 while living in Avignon He reported some years later that he was watching a fire one evening while contemplating one of the great military issues of the day—an assault on the fortress of Gibraltar, which had proved impregnable from both sea and land4 Joseph mused on the possibility of an air assault using troops lifted by the same force that was lifting the embers from the fire He believed that the smoke itself was the buoyant part and contained within it a special gas, which he called "Montgolfier Gas", with a special property he called levity, which is why he preferred smoldering fuel

Joseph then built a box-like chamber 1×1×13 m 3 ft by 3 ft 091 m by 4 ft out of very thin wood, and covering the sides and top with lightweight taffeta cloth He crumpled and lit some paper under the bottom of the box The contraption quickly lifted off its stand and collided with the ceiling

Joseph recruited his brother to balloon building by writing, "Get in a supply of taffeta and of cordage, quickly, and you will see one of the most astonishing sights in the world" The two brothers built a similar device, scaled up by three so 27 times greater in volume On 14 December 1782 they did their very first test flight, lighting with wool and hay, and the lifting force was so great, that they lost control of their craft The device floated nearly two kilometers about 12 mi and was destroyed after landing by the "indiscretion" of passersby5

Public demonstrations, summer 1783edit

First public demonstration in Annonay, 4 June 1783

To make a public demonstration and to claim its invention the brothers constructed a globe-shaped balloon of sackcloth tightened with three thin layers of paper inside The envelope could contain nearly 790 m³ 28,000 cubic feet of air and weighed 225 kg 500 lb It was constructed of four pieces the dome and three lateral bands and held together by 1,800 buttons A reinforcing fish net of cord covered the outside of the envelope

On 4 June 1783, they flew the balloon at Annonay in front of a group of dignitaries from the États particuliers The flight covered 2 km 12 mi, lasted 10 minutes, and had an estimated altitude of 1,600-2,000 m 5,200-6,600 ft Word of their success quickly reached Paris Étienne went to the capital to make further demonstrations and to solidify the brothers' claim to the invention of flight Joseph, given his unkempt appearance and shyness, remained with the family Étienne was the epitome of sober virtues modest in clothes and manner6

In collaboration with the wallpaper manufacturer Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, Étienne constructed a 37,500-cubic-foot 1,060 m3 envelope of taffeta coated with a varnish of alum for fireproofing The balloon was sky blue and decorated with golden flourishes, signs of the zodiac, and suns The design showed the intervention of Réveillon The next test was on 11 September from the grounds of la Folie Titon, close to Réveillon's house There was some concern about the effects of flight into the upper atmosphere on living creatures The king proposed to launch two convicted criminals, but it is most likely that the inventors decided to send a sheep, a duck, and a rooster aloft first

On 19 September 1783, the Aérostat Réveillon was flown with the first living beings in a basket attached to the balloon: a sheep called Montauciel "Climb-to-the-sky", a duck and a rooster The sheep was believed to have a reasonable approximation of human physiology The duck was expected to be unharmed by being lifted and was included as a control for effects created by the aircraft rather than the altitude The rooster was included as a further control as it was a bird that did not fly at high altitudes The demonstration was performed at the royal palace in Versailles, before King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette and a crowd7 The flight lasted approximately eight minutes, covered two miles 3 km, and obtained an altitude of about 1,500 feet 460 m The craft landed safely after flying

Piloted flight, fall 1783edit

A 1786 depiction of the Montgolfier brothers' historic balloon with engineering data Translated details are available on the image hosting page

Since the animals survived, the king allowed flights with humans Again in collaboration with Réveillon, Étienne built a 60,000-cubic-foot 1,700 m3 balloon for the purpose of making flights with humansIt was about seventy-five feet 23 m tall and about fifty feet 15 m in diameter Réveillon supplied rich decorative touches of gold figures on a deep blue background, including fleur-de-lis, signs of the zodiac, and suns with Louis XVI's face in the center interlaced with the royal monogram in the central section Red and blue drapery and golden eagles were at the base of the balloon Étienne Montgolfier was the first human to lift off the Earth, making a tethered test flight from the yard of the Réveillon workshop in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, most likely on October 15, 1783 A little while later on that same day, physicist Pilâtre de Rozier became the second to ascend into the air, to an altitude of 80 feet 24 m, which was the length of the tether89

On 21 November 1783, the first free flight by humans was made by Pilâtre de Rozier, together with an army officer, the marquis d'Arlandes10 The flight began from the grounds of the Château de la Muette close to the Bois de Boulogne park in the western outskirts of Paris They flew about 3,000 feet 910 m above Paris for a distance of nine kilometers After 25 minutes, the balloon landed between the windmills, outside the city ramparts, on the Butte-aux-Cailles Enough fuel remained on board at the end of the flight to have allowed the balloon to fly four to five times as far However, burning embers from the fire were scorching the balloon fabric and had to be daubed out with sponges As it appeared it could destroy the balloon, Pilâtre took off his coat to stop the firecitation needed

The early flights made a sensation Numerous engravings commemorated the events Chairs were designed with balloon backs, and mantel clocks were produced in enamel and gilt-bronze replicas set with a dial in the balloon One could buy crockery decorated with naive pictures of balloonscitation needed

In December 1783, father Pierre Montgolfier was elevated to the nobility and the hereditary appellation of de Montgolfier by King Louis XVI of France

A model of the Montgolfier brothers' balloon at the London Science Museum

Other balloons, competing claimsedit

Some claim that the hot air balloon was invented about 3 years earlier by the Brazilian/ Portuguese priest Bartolomeu de Gusmão11 A description of his invention was published in 1709 in Vienna, and another one was found in the Vatican in about 191712 However, this claim is not generally recognized by aviation historians outside the Portuguese-speaking community, in particular the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale

On 1 December 1783, Jacques Alexandre César Charles rode in a hydrogen filled balloon he had developed at an altitude of about 3 km near Paris

In early 1784, the Flesselles balloon, named after the unfortunate Jacques de Flesselles, later to be an early casualty at the Bastille, gave a rough landing to its passengerscitation needed In June 1784, the Gustave saw the first singing female aeronaut, Élisabeth Thible

Other Montgolfier inventionsedit

Both brothers invented a process to manufacture transparent paper looking like vellum, reproducing the technique of the English, followed by the papermakers Johannot and Réveillon13 In 1796, Joseph Michel Montgolfier invented the first self-acting hydraulic ram, a water pump to raise water for his paper mill at Voiron14 In 1772, the British clockmaker John Whitehurst had invented its precursor, the "pulsation engine" In 1797, Montgolfier´s friend Matthew Boulton took out a British patent on his behalf

In 1816, Joseph Michel´s sons obtained a British patent for an improved version of the pump15

Death, the Montgolfier companyedit

Both brothers were freemasons in Les Neuf Soeurs lodge in Paris16

In 1799, Etienne de Montgolfier died His son-in-law, Barthélémy Barou de la Lombardière de Canson 1774–1859, succeeded him as the head of the company, thanks to his marriage with Alexandrine de Montgolfier The company became "Montgolfier et Canson" in 1801, then "Canson-Montgolfier" in 1807 In 1810, Joseph-Michel died

The Montgolfier Company in Annonay still exists under the name Canson It produces fine art papers, school drawing papers and digital fine art and photography papers and is sold in 150 countries1

See alsoedit

  • List of firsts in aviation


  1. ^ a b Our Values Canson, nd, 2 July 2017
  2. ^ "Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier FRENCH AVIATORS" Encyclopedia Britannica Retrieved 11 January 2017 
  3. ^ CC Gillispie, The Montgolfier brothers and the invention of aviation 1783-1784, p 15
  4. ^ CC Gillispie, p 16
  5. ^ CC Gillispie, p 21
  6. ^ S Schama 1989 Citizens A Chronicle of the French Revolution, p 125
  7. ^ CC Gillispie, pp 92–3
  8. ^ Tom Davis Crouch 2009 Lighter Than Air The Johns Hopkins University Press pp 28, 178 
  9. ^ Charles Gillispie 1983 The Montgolfier Brothers, and the Invention of Aviation Princeton University Press pp 45, 46, 178, 179, 183–185 
  10. ^ "US Centennial of Flight Commission: Early Balloon Flight in Europe" Retrieved 2008-06-04 
  11. ^ Reis, Fernando Bartolomeu de GusmãoCiência em Portugal Centro Virtual Camões, in Portuguese
  12. ^ Gusmao, Bartolomeu de Reproduction fac-similé d'un dessin à la plume de sa description et de la pétition addressée au Jean V de Portugal en langue latine et en écriture contemporaine 1709 retrouvés récemment dans les archives du Vatican du célèbre aéronef de Bartholomeu Lourenco de Gusmão "l'homme volant" portugais, né au Brésil 1685-1724 précurseur des navigateurs aériens et premier inventeur des aérostats 1917 Lausanne: Impr Réunies S A in French, in Latin
  13. ^ Our History 1777 Canson, nd, 2 July 2017
  14. ^ de Montgolfier, JM 1803 "Note sur le bélier hydraulique, et sur la manière d'en calculer les effets" Note on the hydraulic ram, and on the method of calculating its effects PDF Journal des Mines, 13 73 in French pp 42–51 
  15. ^ See, for example: "New Patents: Pierre François Montgolfier," The Annals of Philosophy, 7 41 : 405 May 1816
  16. ^ Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie Daniel Ligou, Presses Universitaires de France, 2006

External linksedit

  • "Lighter than air: the Montgolfier brothers"
  • "Balloons and the Montgolfier brothers"
  • Works by or about Joseph-Michel in libraries WorldCat catalog
  • Works by or about Jacques-Etienne in libraries WorldCat catalog – that is, works catalogued as by or about Joseph or Etienne, respectively

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