Blanchard's 'Vaiseau Volant' balloon, 1784.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving by Denis after a drawing by Desrais entitled 'Sic itur ad astra: Experience du Vaiseau Volant de M Blanchard'. French aeronaut Jean-Pierre Blanchard (1753-1809) travelled from the Champ de Mars in Paris to Billancourt on the Haute-de-Seine in this contraption on 2 March 1784. Called the 'Vaiseau Volant', it was an aerial adaptation of his earlier 'velocipede' (a kind of early bicycle). It had two foot pedals and two hand levers for operating four flapping wings. The aeronaut sat beneath this in a small cockpit. Blanchard was renowned for his ballooning exploits throughout Europe. On 7 January 1785, he and the American physician John Jeffries (1744-1819) became the first balloonists to cros the English Channel.