First manned (free flight) ascent of a hydrogen balloon, 1st December, 1783.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This model (scale 1:50), was inspired by a watercolour painting. Designed by a French profesor of physics, Jacques Charles, and constructed by the brothers Jean and Noel Robert, the balloon carried the brothers aloft as it ascended from the Tuilleries Gardens in Paris, France. The balloon itself had many innovations: a valve in the crown to release gas and so descend; a net over the envelope from which the car and the ballast was slung; and a barometer to act as an altimeter. Its ascent marked the birth of modern ballooning.