'The aerostatic Experience', 19th January 1784.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Line engraving showing the only recorded flight by Joseph Michel Montgolfier (1740-1810). After the first ascent in a hydrogen balloon by Charles (1746-1823) and Robert on 1 December 1783, the Montgolfier brothers, determined not to be outdone, returned to the South of France where they constructed a balloon of staggering proportions. Named 'Le Fleselles' in honour of the Governor of Lyons who sponsored the project, this giant balloon was 131 feet high and 104 feet in diameter, with a capacity of more than 700,000 cubic feet. The ascent from Brotteaux, Lyon on the 19 January 1784 was watched by over 100,000 people. The balloon reached a height of 3000 feet before a large tear in the fabric caused it to descend rapidly, leaving the seven aeronauts shaken but otherwise unhurt.