'Ascent of Bell's aerial Machine from Vauxhall Gardens', July 1850.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Woodcut from 'The Illustrated London News' showing Bell's balloon in a rural landscape. Hugo Bell, an English doctor, filed a patent for a navigable balloon and mechanism for mechanical flight in 1848. After constructing several models, he set to work on his aerial machine, which he called the 'Locomotive Balloon'. The balloon was made of silk, and was 50 feet long and 22 feet in diameter with conical ends. It had a cubic volume of 15,000 feet and, when filled, could carry loads of up to 600 lb. The car was suspended from the balloon by ropes attached to silk rigging bands. Although his ascent from Vauxhall Gardens was succesful, Bell was unable to control the direction in which the machine was propelled and the invention was deemed a failure.