'Geometric Details of the aerostatic Machine', 1784.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving by Joubert et Fils of a Montgolfier balloon, giving details of its construction. 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 of the balloon from Brotteaux in Lyon on the 19 January 1784 was watched by over 100,000 people. It reached a height of 3000 feet before a large tear in the fabric caused it to descend rapidly, leaving the seven aeronauts shaken but unhurt.