Michael and Jacques Čtienne Montgolfier
brothers, born in Annonay, France, were inventors of the first
practical balloon. Joseph-Michael, the elder, was born on August
26, 1740; Jacques-Čtienne was born on January 6, 1745. They were
2 of the 16 children of Pierre Montgolfier, whose prosperous
paper factories in the small town of Vidalon, near Annonay, in
southern France, helped support their balloon experiments.
In 1782, the
brothers discovered that heated air from a fire directed into a
paper or fabric bag made the bag rise.
They demonstrated this discovery in
1782 when a balloon they made rose into the air about
3,000 feet (1,000 meters), remained aloft some 10 minutes, and
then settled to the ground more than a mile and a half from
where it rose. In early June of 1783, in the town of Annonay,
they gave a public exhibition of their discovery with a balloon
made of silk and lined with paper to trap the gas.
It rose to an
altitude of about 6,000 feet (1,830 meters), traveled more than
1 mile (1.6 kilometers), and stayed aloft for 10 minutes. On
September 19, in a demonstration before
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette,
they put a sheep, duck, and rooster aboard a balloon to
determine the effect of altitude on living creatures. The
balloon floated for about 8 minutes and landed safely about 2
miles (3.2 kilometers) from the launch site. The brothers went
on to many more experimental flights.
the time, the Montgolfiers believed they had discovered a new
gas. However, in 1785, the buoyancy was shown to be caused by
heated air, which is less dense than the surrounding atmosphere. The two
brothers were honored by the French Académie des Sciences.
During their careers, they published books on aeronautics,
Joseph invented a calorimeter and the hydraulic ram, and Étienne
developed a process for manufacturing vellum.
Joseph died on June 26, 1810.
Jacques died on August 2, 1799.