How many of our ancestors dreamed of human flight? And how many were admonished for dreaming of such things?
In the late 1700s to early 1800s there were the Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne. They were the sons of a paper maker, but neither were the successor to their father’s business. In fact Joseph, the 12th of 16 children in the family, was seen as a dreamer. And somewhat irresponsible. While his little brother, Jacques, was far more sensible.
But that dreamer mindframe would serve them both well. One day Joseph became inspired by the way drying laundry, placed over a fire, would be moved by the hot air. He thought this “Montgolfier Gas” or levity, was responsible for causing the cloth to be lifted up; rather than hot air rising. But it was a close enough understanding to inspire great things. He’d previously been trying to create parachutes. Which he was able to test, without dying, by jumping off the roof of their home. I imagine this behavior was probably very uncommon during this period. And envisioning him, in period clothing, jumping off a roof with a DIY parachute tickles me.
Here are portraits from their Wikipedia page of Joseph:
As well as Jacques:
I find Joseph to be the most interesting of the two, as he was clearly the dreamer and mastermind. Though it should be noted that those who help manifest a vision are just as valuable as those who envisioned it. Perhaps, even more important at times. But my fascination is with the dreamers who don’t stop until they create their vision.
It took a few years for them to refine their contraption; picking up a friend and collaborator, Jean-Baptiste Réveillion, along the way. He worked with wallpaper. This was helpful as their balloon was made of layers, including paper as well as sackcloth. According to Wikipedia the later version that carried humans was about 75 feet tall by 50 feet wide. I imagine it too be magnificent to witness. Their collective understanding of paper, and treatments for it, were essential in making sure it not only flew but it also didn’t burst into flames. They did many tests including sending a sheep by the name of Montauciel, which means “climb to the sky”. As well as the sheep’s buddies, a duck and a rooster. All to test different aspects of living creatures in flight, as well as the affects of altitude. I bet they were all very confused, but don’t worry. They all remained unharmed, though I’m sure a bit upset. Poor things.
Since they proved that these animals could survive, the King of France, Louie XVI approved their endeavors. Another grab from their Wikipedia page, this depiction of their balloon was commissioned in 1786:
A bit different than the hot air ballons of today. Especially since Joseph thought the smoke was essential in levity. So, I imagine it wasn’t as pleasant as modern day balloons. But still magnificent.
To think, just watching laundry dry was what inspired one man to set off and create a device that allowed human flight. It’s absolutely incredible. Perhaps, it makes you feel like that dream of yours isn’t so far fetched? Especially with all of the advancements and so much technology at our fingertips. Today we have so much available to us. So, don’t let anything or anyone subdue your dreams!