The first public balloon ascent, 5 June 1783.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Watercolour painting showing the ascent of a Montgolfier hot-air balloon. French paper-makers Joseph Michel (1740-1810) and Jacques-Etienne (1745-1799) Montgolfier were amongst the first to succesfully exploit the idea of the hot-air balloon. They began their experiments by inflating paper balloons using the hot air produced by straw fires. After initial tests proved succesful, they constructed a large linen balloon lined with paper and fastened together with a network of strings and buttons. On Thursday 5 June 1783, they gave the first public demonstration of ballooning at Annonay in Southern France. To the crowd's general astonishment, the balloon soared to a height of 6000 feet (1829 m) before drifting northwards and landing safely about one and a half miles away.