'Ascent of the 19th September, 1783 at Versailles'.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Steel engraving. 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. This ascent was made on 19 September 1783, in front of the King and Queen of France and more than 130,000 spectators who had gathered outside the Palace of Versailles. The balloon, named 'Le Martial', was set adrift carrying a sheep, a cock and a duck, in an attempt to investigate the effects of flying on living creatures. It remained airborne for eight minutes before descending near the Forest of Vaucreson one and a half miles (2.4 km) away. The animals, which were caged in a basket suspended from the balloon, landed safely. Dimensions: 168mm x 122mm.