Etching by J Rodriguez. Vincent (or Vincenzo) Lunardi (1759-1806), Italian secretary to the Neapolitan ambasador in London, made the first aerial ascent in a hydrogen balloon in Britain on 15 September 1784. After several further ascents around England and Scotland, Lunardi left to pursue his aerial career in Europe. He made a number of succesful ascents in his native Italy at Rome, Palermo and Naples, before moving on to Spain and Portugal. Lunardi's balloon ascent from Madrid was the first ever held in Spain. His balloon was financed by King Carlos IV and all proceeds from ticket sales to the event used to help patients of the retirement hospitals in the city. Lunardi won great acclaim in Spain for his courageous exploits.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library