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Aerostatische Machine

 Digital Record
Identifier: VBI_000127


  • Creation: c. 1783

Conditions Governing Use

Access to the Theodore Newton Vail Collection of Aeronautical Images, Broadsides and Clippings is not authorization to publish. Separate written application for permission to publish must be made to the Institute Archives. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection.

Biographical / Historical

The first hot air balloon to rise with a human on board took place on October 15, 1783. Following the success of previous experiments using unmanned balloons and animal aeronauts, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier became the first human to make an ascent. It became clear from this event and a subsequent attempt that another aeronaut would be needed to balance the weight in the balloon. On October 19, 1783, Giroud de Villete joined de Rozier in a tethered Montgolfier balloon that was aloft above Paris for nine minutes and reached a height of of 330 feet. The Marquis d'Arlandes had also accompanied de Rozier in a tethered ascension that day. The first free flight with human passengers was to follow shortly thereafter. On November 21, 1783, de Rozier made an untethered ascent along with the Marquis Francois d'Arlandes. King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the only men allowed to risk their lives in a free balloon, but de Rozier lobbied for and eventually was granted this honor.

Language of Materials


Existence and Location of Originals

Box 5

Physical Description

Art on Paper


21.6 x 15.9 cm

General Note

Engraving depicting a captive Montgolfier balloon hovering above a platform. In the balloon are two aeronauts (Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and Girond de Villete). Two men to the left of the balloon are gathering materials on the platform while the two on the right watch the balloon ascend.

Sources used for Biographical/Historical note

Rolt, L.T.C., The Aeronauts: A History of Ballooning 1783-1903 (1966), 43-44.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

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