'Charles's Balloon on the way to the Champ de Mars', 2 December 1783.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Steel engraving. Designed by Jacques Charles (1746-1823), a French profesor of physics, and constructed by the brothers Jean and Noel Robert, this balloon carried Charles and Noel Robert on the first manned free flight of a hydrogen balloon on 1 December 1783. The balloon ascended from the Tuilleries in Paris at 1.40pm in front of a crowd of 400,000, landing two hours later at Nesle-la-Vallee, 27 miles (43 km) away. Robert alighted here but Charles re-ascended in the balloon, reaching an altitude of over 9000 feet (2.7 km) before finally landing near Tour de Hay, 3 miles (4.8 km) from Nesle. The flight had been an overwhelming succes and the next day, the balloon was loaded onto a cart and brought back to Paris in triumph.