1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aeronautics

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AERONAUTICS, the art of “navigating” the “air.” It is divisible into two main branches—aerostation, dealing properly with machines which like balloons are lighter than the air, and aviation, dealing with the problem of artificial flight by means of flying machines which, like birds, are heavier than the air, and also with attempts to fly made by human beings by the aid of artificial wings fitted to their limbs.

Historically, aviation is the older of the two, and in the legends or myths of men or animals which are supposed to have travelled through the air, such as Pegasus, Medea’s dragons and Daedalus, as well as in Egyptian bas-reliefs, wings appear as the means by which aerial locomotion is effected. In later times there are many stories of men who have attempted to fly in the same way. John Wilkins (1614–1672), one of the founders of the Royal Society and bishop of Chester, who in 1640 discussed the possibility of reaching the moon by volitation, says in his Mathematical Magick (1648) that it was related that “a certain English monk called Elmerus, about the Confessor’s time,” flew from a town in Spain for a distance of more than a furlong; and that other persons had flown from St Mark’s, Venice, and at Nuremberg. Giovanni Battista Dante, of Perugia, is said to have flown several times across Lake Trasimene. At the beginning of the 16th century an Italian alchemist who was collated to the abbacy of Tungland, in Galloway, Scotland, by James IV., undertook to fly from the walls of Stirling Castle through the air to France. He actually attempted the feat, but soon came to the ground and broke his thigh-bone in the fall—an accident which he explained by asserting that the wings he employed contained some fowls’ feathers, which had an “affinity” for the dung-hill, whereas if they had been composed solely of eagles’ feathers they would have been attracted to the air. This anecdote furnished Dunbar, the Scottish poet, with the subject of one of his rude satires. Leonardo da Vinci about the same time approached the problem in a more scientific spirit, and his notebooks contain several sketches of wings to be fitted to the arms and legs. In the following century a lecture on flying delivered in 1617 by Fleyder, rector of the grammar school at Tubingen, and published eleven years later, incited a poor monk to attempt to put the theory into practice, but his machinery broke down and he was killed.

In Francis Bacon’s Natural History there are two passages which refer to flying, though they scarcely bear out the assertion made by some writers that he first published the true principles of aeronautics.

The first is styled Experiment Solitary, touching Flying in the Air:—“Certainly many birds of good wing (as kites and the like) would bear up a good weight as they fly; and spreading feathers thin and close, and in great breadth, will likewise bear up a great weight, being even laid, without tilting up on the sides. The farther extension of this experiment might be thought upon.” The second passage is more diffuse, but less intelligible; it is styled Experiment Solitary, touching the Flying of unequal Bodies in the Air:—“Let there be a body of unequal weight (as of wool and lead or bone and lead); if you throw it from you with the light end forward, it will turn, and the weightier end will recover to be forwards, unless the body be over long. The cause is, for that the more dense body hath a more violent pressure of the parts from the first impulsion, which is the cause (though heretofore not found out, as hath been often said) of all violent motions; and when the hinder part moveth swifter (for that it less endureth pressure of parts) than the forward part can make way for it, it must needs be that the body turn over; for (turned) it can more easily draw forward the lighter part.” The fact here alluded to is the resistance that bodies experience in moving through the air, which, depending on the quantity of surface merely, must exert a proportionally greater effect on rare substances. The passage itself, however, after making every allowance for the period in which it was written, must be deemed confused, obscure and unphilosophical.

In his posthumous work, De Motu Animalium, published at Rome in 1680–1681, G. A. Borelli gave calculations of the enormous strength of the pectoral muscles in birds; and his proposition cciv. (vol. i. pp. 322-326), entitled Est impossibile ut homines propriis viribus artificiose volare possint, points out the impossibility of man being able by his muscular strength to give motion to wings of sufficient extent to keep him suspended in the air. But during his lifetime two Frenchmen, Allard in 1660 and Besnier about 1678, are said to have succeeded in making short flights. An account of some of the modern attempts to construct flying machines will be found in the article Flight and Flying; here we append a brief consideration of the mechanical aspects of the problem.

The very first essential for success is safety, which will probably only be attained with automatic stability. The underlying principle is that the centre of gravity shall at all times be on the same vertical line as the centre of pressure. The latter varies with the angle of incidence. For square planes it moves approximately as expressed by Joessel’s formula, C+(0·2+0·3 sin α)L, in which C is the distance from the front edge, L the length fore and aft, and α the angle of incidence. The movement is different on concave surfaces. The term aeroplane is understood to apply to flat sustaining surfaces, but experiment indicates that arched surfaces are more efficient. S. P. Langley proposed the word aerodrome, which seems the preferable term for apparatus with wing-line surfaces. This is the type to which results point as the proper one for further experiments. With this it seems probable that, with well-designed apparatus, 40 to 50 ℔ can be sustained per indicated h.p., or about twice that quantity per resistance or “thrust” h.p., and that some 30 or 40% of the weight can be devoted to the machinery, thus requiring motors, with their propellers, shafting, supplies, &c., weighing less than 20 ℔ per h.p. It is evident that the apparatus must be designed to be as light as possible, and also to reduce to a minimum all resistances to propulsion. This being kept in view, the strength and consequent section required for each member may be calculated by the methods employed in proportioning bridges, with the difference that the support (from air pressure) will be considered as uniformly distributed, and the load as concentrated at one or more points. Smaller factors of safety may also have to be used. Knowing the sections required and unit weights of the materials to be employed, the weight of each part can be computed. If a model has been made to absolutely exact scale, the weight of the full-sized apparatus may approximately be ascertained by the formula

in which W is the weight of the model, S its surface, and W′ and S′ the weight and surface of the intended apparatus. Thus if the model has been made one-quarter size in its homologous dimensions, the supporting surfaces will be sixteen times, and the total weight sixty-four times those of the model. The weight and the surface being determined, the three most important things to know are the angle of incidence, the “lift,” and the required speed. The fundamental formula for rectangular air pressure is well known: P=KV2S, in which P is the rectangular normal pressure, in pounds or kilograms, K a coefficient (0·0049 for British, and 0·11 for metric measures), V the velocity in miles per hour or in metres per second, and S the surface in square feet or in square metres. The normal on oblique surfaces, at various angles of incidence, is given by the formula P=KV2Sη, which latter factor is given both for planes and for arched surfaces in the subjoined table:—

Percentages of Air Pressure at Various Angles of Incidence
Planes (Duchemin Formula,
verified by Langley).

N=P 2sinα/1+sin2α.
Wings (Lilienthal).
Concavity 1 in 12.
−9° 0·0 0·0  0·0 +0·070
−8° 0·040 0·0396  −0·0055  +0·067
−7° 0·080 0·0741 −0·0097 +0·064
−6° 0·120 0·1193 −0·0125 +0·060
−5° 0·160 0·1594 −0·0139 +0·055
−4° 0·200 0·1995 −0·0139 +0·049
−3° 0·242 0·2416 −0·0126 +0·043
−2° 0·286 0·2858 −0·0100 +0·037
−1° 0·332 0·3318 −0·0058 +0·031
0·0 0·0 0·0 0·381 0·3810 −0·0 +0·024
+1° 0·035 0·035 0·000611 0·434 0·434 +0·0075 +0·016
+2° 0·070 0·070 0·00244 0·489 0·489 +0·0170 +0·008
+3° 0·104 0·104 0·00543 0·546 0·545 +0·0285  0·0
+4° 0·139 0·139 0·0097 0·600 0·597 +0·0418 −0·007
+5° 0·174 0·173 0·0152 0·650 0·647 +0·0566 −0·014
+6° 0·207 0·206 0·0217 0·696 0·692 +0·0727 −0·021
+7° 0·240 0·238 0·0293 0·737 0·731 +0·0898 −0·028
+8° 0·273 0·270 0·0381 0·771 0·763 +0·1072 −0·035
+9° 0·305 0·300 0·0477 0·800 0·790 +0·1251 −0·042
10° 0·337 0·332 0·0585 0·825 0·812 +0·1432 −0·050
11° 0·369 0·362 0·0702 0·846 0·830 +0·1614 −0·058
12° 0·398 0·390 0·0828 0·864 0·845 +0·1803 −0·064
13° 0·431 0·419 0·0971 0·879 0·856 +0·1976 −0·070
14° 0·457 0·443 0·1155 0·891 0·864 +0·2156 −0·074
15° 0·486 0·468 0·1240 0·901 0·870 +0·2332 −0·076

The sustaining power, or “lift” which in horizontal flight must be equal to the weight, can be calculated by the formula L=KV2Sηcosα, or the factor may be taken direct from the table, in which the “lift” and the “drift” have been obtained by multiplying the normal η by the cosine and sine of the angle. The last column shows the tangential pressure on concave surfaces which O. Lilienthal found to possess a propelling component between 3° and 32° and therefore to be negative to the relative wind. Former modes of computation indicated angles of 10° to 15° as necessary for support with planes. These were prohibitory in consequence of the great “drift”; but the present data indicate that, with concave surfaces, angles of 2° to 5° will produce adequate “lift.” To compute the latter the angle at which the wings are to be set must first be assumed, and that of +3° will generally be found preferable. Then the required velocity is next to be computed by the formula

or for concave wings at +3°:

Having thus determined the weight, the surface, the angle of incidence and the required speed for horizontal support, the next step is to calculate the power required. This is best accomplished by first obtaining the total resistances, which consist of the “drift” and of the head resistances due to the hull and framing. The latter are arrived at preferably by making a tabular statement showing all the spars and parts offering head resistance, and applying to each, the coefficient appropriate to its “master section,” as ascertained by experiment. Thus is obtained an “equivalent area” of resistance, which is to be multiplied by the wind pressure due to the speed. Care must be taken to resolve all the resistances at their proper angle of application, and to subtract or add the tangential force, which consists in the surface S, multiplied by the wind pressure, and by the factor in the table, which is, however, 0 for 3° and 32°, but positive or negative at other angles. When the aggregate resistances are known, the “thrust h.p.” required is obtained by multiplying the resistance by the speed, and then allowing for mechanical losses in the motor and propeller, which losses will generally be 50% of indicated h.p. Close approximations are obtained by the above method when applied to full-sized apparatus. The following example will make the process clearer. The weight to be carried by an apparatus was 189 ℔ on concave wings of 143·5 sq. ft. area, set at a positive angle of 3°. There were in addition rear wings of 29·5 sq. ft., set at a negative angle of 3°; hence, L=189=0·005 ✕ V2 ✕ 143·5 ✕ 0·545.

Whence 22 miles per hour,

at which the air pressure would be 2·42 ℔ per sq. ft. The area of spars and man was 17·86 sq. ft., reduced by various coefficients to an “equivalent surface” of 11·70 sq. ft., so that the resistances were:—

Drift front wings, 143·5 ✕ 0·0285 ✕ 2·42  =9·90 ℔
Drift rear wings, 29·5 × (0·043−0·242 ✕ 0·0523) ✕ 2·42  =2·17 lb
Tangential force at 3°  =0·00
Head resistance, 11·70 ✕ 2·42 =28·31
Total resistance =40·38 ℔

Speed 22 miles per hour. Power=40·38 ✕ 22/375=2·36 h.p. for the “thrust” or 4·72 h.p. for the motor. The weight being 189 ℔, and the resistance 40·38 ℔, the gliding angle of descent was 40·38/189=tangent of 12°, which was verified by many experiments.

The following expressions will be found useful in computing such projects, with the aid of the table above given:—

1. Wind force, F=KV2.  8. Drift, D=KSV2ηsinα.
2. Pressure, P=KV2S.  9. Head area E, get an equivalent.
3. Velocity, V= 10. Head resistance, H=EF.
11. Tangential force, T=Pα.
4. Surface S varies as 1/V2. 12. Resistance, R=D+H±T.
5. Normal, N=KSV2η. 13. Ft. ℔, M=RV.
6. Lift, L=KSV2ηcosα. 14. Thrust, h.p.,=RV/factor.
7. Weight, W=L=Ncosα.

Aerostation.—Possibly the flying dove of Archytas of Tarentum is the earliest suggestion of true aerostation. According to Aulus Gellius (Noctes Atticae) it was a “model of a dove or pigeon formed in wood and so contrived as by a certain mechanical art and power to fly: so nicely was it balanced by weights and put in motion by hidden and enclosed air.” This “hidden and enclosed air” may conceivably represent an anticipation of the hot-air balloon, but it is at least as probable that the apparent flight of the dove was a mere mechanical trick depending on the use of fine wires or strings invisible to the spectators.

In the middle ages vague ideas appear of some ethereal substance so light that vessels containing it would remain suspended in the air. Roger Bacon (1214–1294) conceived of a large hollow globe made of very thin metal and filled with ethereal air or liquid fire, which would float on the atmosphere like a ship on water. Albert of Saxony, who was bishop of Halberstadt from 1366 to 1390, had a similar notion, and considered that a small portion of the principle of fire enclosed in a light sphere would raise it and keep it suspended. The same speculation was advanced by Francis Mendoza, a Portuguese Jesuit, who died in 1626 at the age of forty-six, and by Gaspar Schott (1608–1666), also a Jesuit and professor of mathematics at Würzburg, though for fire he substituted the thin ethereal fluid which he believed to float above the atmosphere. So late as 1755 Joseph Galien (1699–1782), a Dominican friar and professor of philosophy and theology in the papal university of Avignon, proposed to collect the diffuse air of the upper regions and to enclose it in a huge vessel extending more than a mile every way, and intended to carry fifty-four times as much weight as did Noah’s ark. A somewhat different but equally fantastic method of making heavy bodies rise is quoted by Schott from Lauretus Laurus, according to whom swans’ eggs or leather balls filled with nitre, sulphur or mercury ascend when exposed to the sun. Laurus also stated that hens’ eggs filled with dew will ascend in the same circumstances, because dew is shed by the stars and drawn up again to heaven by the sun’s heat during the day. The same notion is utilized by Cyrano de Bergerac (1619–1655) in his romances describing journeys to the moon and sun, for his French traveller fastens round his body a multitude of very thin flasks filled with the morning’s dew, whereby through the attractive power of the sun’s heat on the dew he is raised to the middle regions of the atmosphere, to sink again, however, on the breaking of some of the flasks.

Fig. 1.—Lana’s Aeronautical Machine.

A distinct advance on Schott is marked by the scheme for aerial navigation proposed by the Jesuit, Francis Lana (1631–1687), in his book, published at Brescia in 1670, Prodromo ovvero Saggio di alcune invenzioni nuove promesso all’ Arte Maestra. His idea, though useless and unpractical in so far that it could never be carried out, is yet deserving of notice, as the principles involved are sound; and this can be said of no earlier attempt. His project was to procure four copper balls of very large dimensions (fig. 1), yet so extremely thin that after the air was exhausted from them they would be lighter than the air they displaced and so would rise; and to those four balls he proposed to attach a boat, with sails, &c., which would carry up a man. He submitted the whole matter to calculation, and proposed that the globes should be about 25 ft. in diameter and 1/225th of an inch in thickness; this would give from all four balls a total ascensional force of about 1200 ℔, which would be quite enough to raise the boat, sails, passengers, &c. But the obvious objection to the whole scheme is, that it would be quite impossible to construct a globe of so large a size and of such small thickness which would even support its own weight without collapsing if placed on the ground, much less bear the external atmospheric pressure when the internal air was removed. Lana himself noticed this objection, but he thought that the spherical form of the copper shell would, notwithstanding its extreme thinness, enable it, after the exhaustion was effected, to sustain the enormous pressure, which, acting equally on every point of the surface, would tend to consolidate rather than to break the metal. His proposal to exhaust the air from the globes by attaching to each a tube 36 ft. long, fitted with a stopcock, and so producing a Torricellian vacuum, suggests that he was ignorant of the invention of the air-pump by Otto von Guericke about 1650.

We now come to the invention of the balloon, which was due to Joseph Michel Montgolfier (1740–1810) and Jacques Étienne Montgolfier (1745–1799), sons of Pierre Montgolfier, a large and celebrated papermaker at Annonay, a town about 40 m. from Lyons. The brothers had observed the suspension of clouds in the atmosphere, Invention
of the
and it occurred to them that if they could enclose any vapour of the nature of a cloud in a large and very light bag, it might rise and carry the bag with it into the air. Towards the end of 1782 they inflated bags with smoke from a fire placed underneath, and found that either the smoke or some vapour emitted from the fire did ascend and carry the bag with it. Being thus assured of the correctness of their views, they determined to have a public ascent of a balloon on a large scale. They accordingly invited the States of Vivarais, then assembled at Annonay, to witness their aerostatic experiment; and on the 5th of June 1783, in the presence of a considerable concourse of spectators, a linen globe of 105 ft. in circumference was inflated over a fire fed with small bundles of chopped straw. When released it rapidly rose to a great height, and descended, at the expiration of ten minutes, at the distance of about 11/2m. This was the discovery of the balloon. The brothers Montgolfier imagined that the bag rose because of the levity of the smoke or other vapour given forth by the burning straw; and it was not till some time later that it was recognized that the ascending power was due merely to the lightness of heated air compared to an equal volume of air at a lower temperature. In this balloon, no source of heat was taken up, so that the air inside rapidly cooled, and the balloon soon descended.

Fig. 2.—Charles’ and
Robert’s Balloon.

The news of the experiment at Annonay attracted so much attention at Paris that Barthelemi Faujas de Saint-Fond (1741–1819), afterwards professor of geology at the Musee d’Histoire Naturelle, set on foot a subscription for paying the expense of repeating the experiment. The balloon was constructed by two brothers of the name of Robert, under the superintendence of the physicist, J. A. C. Charles. The first suggestion was to copy the process of Montgolfier, but Charles proposed the application of hydrogen gas, which was adopted. The filling of the balloon, which was made of thin silk varnished with a solution of elastic gum, and was about 13 ft. in diameter, was begun on the 23rd of August 1783, in the Place des Victoires. The hydrogen gas was obtained by the action of dilute sulphuric acid upon iron filings, and was introduced through leaden pipes; but as the gas was not passed through cold water, great difficulty, was experienced in filling the balloon completely; and altogether about 500 ℔ of sulphuric acid and twice that amount of iron filings were used (fig. 2). Bulletins were issued daily of the progress of the inflation; and the crowd was so great that on the 26th the balloon was moved secretly by night to the Champ de Mars, a distance of 2 m. On the next day an immense concourse of people covered the Champ de Mars, and every spot from which a view could be obtained was crowded. About five o’clock a cannon was discharged as the signal for the ascent, and the balloon when liberated rose to the height of about 3000 ft. with great rapidity. A shower of rain which began to fall directly after it had left the earth in no way checked its progress; and the excitement was so great, that thousands of well-dressed spectators, many of them ladies, stood exposed, watching it intently the whole time it was in sight and were drenched to the skin, The balloon, after remaining in the air for about three-quarters of an hour, fell in a field near Gonesse, about 15 m. off, and terrified the peasantry so much that it was torn into shreds by them. Hydrogen gas was at this time known by the name of inflammable air; and balloons inflated with gas have ever since been called by the people air-balloons, the kind invented by the Montgolfiers being designated fire-balloons. French Writers have also very frequently styled them after their inventors, Charlières and Montgolfières.

On the 19th of September 1783 Joseph Montgolfier repeated the Annonay experiment at Versailles, in the presence of the king, the queen, the court and an immense number of spectators. The inflation was begun at one o’clock, and completed in eleven minutes, when the balloon rose to the height of about 1500 ft., and descended after eight minutes, at a distance of about 2 m., in the wood of Vaucresson. Suspended below the balloon: in a cage, had been placed a sheep, a cock and a duck, which were thus the first aerial travellers. They were quite uninjured, except the cock, which had its right wing hurt in consequence of a kick it had received from the sheep; but this took place before the ascent. The balloon, which was painted with ornaments in oil colours, had a very showy appearance (fig. 3).

Fig. 3.—Montgolfier’s Balloon.

The first human being who ascended in a balloon was François Pilâtre de Rozier (1756–1785), a native of Metz, who was appointed superintendent of the natural history collections of Louis XVIII. On the 15th of October 1783, and following days, he made several ascents (generally alone, but once with a companion, Girond de Villette) in a captive balloon (i.e. one attached by ropes to the ground), and demonstrated that there was no difficulty in taking up fuel and feeding the fire, which was kindled in a brazier suspended under the balloon, when in the air. The way being thus prepared for aerial navigation, on the 21st of November 1783, Pilâtre de Rozier and the marquis d’Arlandes first trusted themselves to a free fire-balloon. The experiment was made from the Jardin du Château de la Muette, in the Bois de Boulogne. A large fire-balloon was inflated at about two o’clock, rose to a height of about 500 ft., and passing over the Invalides and the École Militaire, descended beyond the Boulevards, about 9000 yds. from the place of ascent, having been between twenty and twenty-five minutes in the air.

Only ten days later, viz. on the 1st of December 1783, Charles ascended from Paris in a balloon inflated with hydrogen gas. The balloon, as in the case of the small one of the same kind previously launched from the Champ de Mars, was constructed by the brothers Robert, one of whom took part in the ascent. It was 27 ft. in diameter, and the car was suspended from a hoop surrounding the middle of the balloon, and fastened to a net, which covered the upper hemisphere. The balloon ascended very gently from the Tuileries at a quarter to two o’clock, and after remaining for some time at an elevation of about 2000 ft., it descended in about two hours at Nesle, a small town about 27 m. from Paris, when Robert left the car, and Charles made a second ascent by himself. He had intended to have replaced the weight of his companion by a nearly equivalent quantity of ballast; but not having any suitable means of obtaining such at the place of descent, and it being just upon sunset, he gave the word to let go, and the balloon being thus so greatly lightened, ascended very rapidly to a height of about 2 m. After staying in the air about half an hour, he descended 3 m. from the place of ascent, although he believed the distance traversed, owing to different currents, to have been about 9 m. In this second journey he experienced a violent pain in his right ear and jaw, no doubt produced by the rapidity of the ascent. He also witnessed the phenomenon of a double sunset on the same day; for when he ascended, the sun had set in the valleys, and as he mounted he saw it rise again, and set a second time as he descended.

All the features of the modern balloon as now used are more or less due to Charles, who invented the valve at the top, suspended the car from a hoop, which was itself attached to the balloon by netting, &c. With regard to his use of hydrogen gas, there are anticipations that must be noticed. As early as 1766 Henry Cavendish showed that this gas was at least seven times lighter than ordinary air, and it immediately occurred to Dr Joseph Black, of Edinburgh, that a thin bag filled with hydrogen gas would rise to the ceiling of a room. He provided, accordingly, the allantois of a calf, with the view of showing at a public lecture such a curious experiment; but for some reason it seems to have failed, and Black did not repeat it, thus allowing a great discovery, almost within his reach, to escape him. Several years afterwards a similar idea occurred to Tiberius Cavallo, who found that bladders, even when carefully scraped, are too heavy, and that China paper is permeable to the gas. But in 1782, the year before the invention of the Montgolfiers, he succeeded in elevating soap-bubbles by inflating them with hydrogen gas.

Researches on the use of gas for inflating balloons seem to have been carried on at Philadelphia nearly simultaneously with the experiments of the Montgolfiers; and when the news of the latter reached America, D. Rittenhouse and F. Hopkinson, members of the Philosophical Society at Philadelphia; constructed a machine consisting of forty-seven small hydrogen gas-balloons attached to a car or cage. After several preliminary experiments, in which animals were let up to a certain height by a rope, a carpenter, one James Wilcox, was induced to enter the car for a small sum of money; the ropes were cut, and he remained in the air about ten minutes, and only then effected his descent by making incisions in a number of the balloons, through fear of falling into the river, which he was approaching.

Although the news of the Annonay and subsequent experiments in France rapidly spread all over Europe, and formed a topic of general discussion, still it was not till five months after the Montgolfiers had first publicly sent a balloon into the air that any aerostatic experiment was made in England.First ascents in Great Britain. In November 1783 Count Francesco Zambeccari (1756–1812), an Italian who happened to be in London, made a balloon of oil-silk, 10 ft. in diameter, and weighing 11 ℔. It was publicly shown for several days, and on the 25th it was three-quarters filled with hydrogen gas and launched from the Artillery ground at one o’clock. It descended after two hours and a half near Petworth, in Sussex, 48 m. from London. This was the first balloon that ascended from English ground. On the 22nd of February 1784 a hydrogen gas balloon, 5 ft. in diameter, was let up from Sandwich, in Kent, and descended at Warneton, in French Flanders, 75 m. distant. This was the first balloon that crossed the Channel. The first person who rose into the air from British ground appears to have been J. Tytler,[1] who ascended from the Comely Gardens, Edinburgh, on the 27th of August 1784, in a fire-balloon of his own construction. He descended on the road to Restalrig, about half a mile from the place where he rose.

But it was Vincent Lunardi who practically introduced aerostation into Great Britain. Although Tytler had the precedence by a few days still his attempts and partial success were all but unknown; whereas Lunardi’s experiments excited an enormous amount of enthusiasm in London. He was secretary to
Fig. 4.—Lunardi’s Balloon.
Prince Caramanico, the Neapolitan ambassador, and his published letters to his guardian, the chevalier Compagni, written while he was carrying out his project, and detailing all the difficulties, &c., he met with as they occurred, give an interesting and vivid account of the whole matter. His balloon was 33 ft. in circumference (fig. 4), and was exposed to the public view at the Lyceum in the Strand, where it was visited by upwards of 20,000 people. He originally intended to ascend from Chelsea Hospital, but the conduct of a crowd at a garden at Chelsea, which destroyed the fire-balloon of a Frenchman named de Moret, who announced an ascent on the 11th of August, but was unable to keep his word, led to the withdrawal of the leave that had been granted. Ultimately he was permitted to ascend from the Artillery ground, and on the 15th of September 1784 the inflation with hydrogen gas took place. It was intended that an English gentleman named Biggin should accompany Lunardi; but the crowd becoming impatient, the latter judged it prudent to ascend with the balloon only partially full rather than risk a longer delay, and accordingly Mr Biggin was obliged to leave the car. Lunardi therefore ascended alone, in presence of the prince of Wales and an enormous crowd of spectators. He took up with him a pigeon, a dog and a cat, and the balloon was provided with oars, by means of which he hoped to raise or lower it at pleasure. Shortly after starting the pigeon escaped, and one of the oars became broken and fell to the ground. In about an hour and a half he descended at South Mimms, in Hertfordshire, and landed the cat, which had suffered from the cold: he then ascended again, and descended, after the lapse of about three-quarters of an hour, at Standon, near Ware, where he had great difficulty in inducing the peasants to come to his assistance; but at length a young woman, taking hold of one of the cords, urged the men to follow her example, which they then did. The excitement caused by this ascent was immense, and Lunardi at once became the star of the hour. He was presented to the king, and was courted and flattered on all sides. To show the enthusiasm displayed by the people during his ascent, he tells himself, in his sixth letter, how a lady, mistaking the oar which fell for himself, was so affected by his supposed destruction that she died in a few days; but, on the other hand, he says he was told by the judges “that he had certainly saved the life of a young man who might possibly be reformed, and be to the public a compensation for the death of the lady”; for the jury were deliberating on the fate of a criminal, whom they must ultimately have condemned, when the balloon appeared, and to save time they gave a verdict of acquittal, and the whole court came out to view the balloon. The king also was in conference with his ministers; but on hearing that the balloon was passing, he broke up the discussion, and with them watched the balloon through telescopes. The balloon was afterwards exhibited in the Pantheon. In the latter part of the following year (1785) Lunardi made several successful ascents from Kelso, Edinburgh and Glasgow (in one of which he traversed a distance of 110 m.); these he described in a second series of letters. The first ascent from Ireland was made on the 19th of January 1785 by a Mr Crosbie, who on the following 19th of July attempted to cross St George’s Channel to England but fell into the sea. The second person who ascended from Ireland was Richard Maguire. Mr Crosbie had inflated his balloon on the 12th of May 1785, but it was unable to take him up. Maguire in these circumstances offered himself as a substitute, and his offer being accepted he made the ascent. For this he was knighted by the Lord-Lieutenant. Another attempt to cross St George’s Channel was made by James Sadler on the 1st of October 1812, and he had nearly succeeded when in consequence of a change of wind he was forced to descend into the sea off Liverpool, whence he was rescued by a fishing-boat. But on the 22nd of July 1817 his second son, Windham Sadler, succeeded in crossing from Dublin to Holyhead.

Fig. 5.—Blanchard’s Balloon.
A, Balloon of taffeta, 26 ft. in diameter,
covered with a net.
B, Car suspended by cords from hoop C.
D,D,D,D, Wings worked by rack-work E.
F, Parachute to break the force of descent
should the balloon burst.
G, Tube communicating with inside of balloon.

The first balloon voyage across the English Channel was accomplished by Jean Pierre Blanchard (1753–1809) and Dr. J. Jeffries, an American physician, on the 7th of January 1785. In the preceding year, on the 2nd of March, Blanchard, who was one of the most celebrated of the earlier aeronauts,Voyages across English Channel. made his first voyage from Paris in a balloon 27 ft. in diameter (fig. 5), and descended at Billancourt near Sevres. Just as the balloon was about to start, a young man jumped into the car and drawing his sword declared his determination to ascend with Blanchard. He was ultimately removed by force. It has sometimes been incorrectly stated that he was Napoleon Bonaparte; his name in reality was Dupont de Chambon. In their Channel crossing Blanchard and his companion, who started from Dover, when about one-third across found themselves descending, and threw out every available thing from the boat or car. When about three-quarters across they were descending again, and had to throw out not only the anchor and cords, but also to strip and throw away part of their clothing, which they found they were rising, and their last resource, viz. to cut away the car, was rendered unnecessary. As they approached the shore the balloon rose, describing a magnificent arch high over the land. They descended in the forest of Guinnes.

On the 15th of June 1785, Pilâtre de Rozier made an attempt to repeat the exploit of Blanchard and Jeffries in the reverse direction, and cross from Boulogne to England. For this purpose he contrived a double balloon, which he expected would combine the advantages of both kinds—a fire-balloon, 10 ft. in diameter, being placed underneath a gas-balloon of 37 ft. in diameter, so that by increasing or diminishing the fire in the former it might be possible to ascend or descend without waste of gas. Rozier was accompanied by P. A. Romain, and for rather less than half an hour after the aerostat ascended all seemed to be going on well, when suddenly the whole apparatus was seen in flames, and the unfortunate adventurers came to the ground from the supposed height of more than 3000 ft. Rozier was killed on the spot, and Romain only survived about ten minutes. A monument was erected on the place where they fell, which was near the sea-shore, about 4 m. from the starting-point.

The largest balloon on record (if the contemporary accounts are correct) ascended from Lyons on the 19th of January 1784. It was more than 100 ft. in diameter, about 130 ft. in height, and when distended had a capacity, it is said, of over half a million cubic feet. It was called Early large balloons.the “Flesselles” (from the name of its proprietor, we believe), and after having been inflated from a straw fire in seventeen minutes, it rose with seven persons in the car to the height of about 3000 ft., but descended again after the lapse of about a quarter of an hour from the time of starting, in consequence of a rent in the upper part.

Another large fire-balloon, 68 ft. in diameter, was constructed by the chevalier Paul Andreani of Milan, and on the 25th of February he ascended in it from Milan, remaining in the air for about twenty minutes. This is usually regarded as the first ascent in Italy (but see Monck Mason’s Aeronautica, p. 247).

On the 7th of November 1836, at half-past one o'clock, a large balloon containing about 85,000 cub. ft. of gas ascended from Vauxhall Gardens, London, carrying Robert Hollond, M.P., Monck Mason and Charles Green, and descended about two leagues from Weilburg, in the duchy of Nassau, at half-past seven the next morning, having thus traversed a distance of about 500 m. in 18 hours; Liege was passed in the course of the night, and Coblentz in the early morning. In consequence of this journey the balloon became famous as the “Nassau Balloon” (fig. 6). Charles Green (1785–1870), who constructed it and subsequently became its owner, was the most celebrated of English aeronauts, and made an extraordinary number of ascents. His first, made from the Green Park, London, on the 19th of July 1821 at the coronation of George IV., was distinguished for the fact that for the first time coal-gas was used instead of hydrogen for inflating the balloon. In 1828 he made an equestrian ascent from the Eagle Tavern, City Road, London, seated on his favourite pony. Such ascents have since been repeated; in 1852 Madame Poitevin made one from Cremorne Gardens, but was prevented from giving a second performance by police interference, the exhibition outraging public opinion. It was in descending from the “Nassau Balloon” in a parachute that Robert Cocking was killed in 1837 (see Parachute). Green was the inventor of the guide-rope, which consists of a long rope trailing below the car. Its function is to reduce the waste of gas and ballast required to keep the balloon at a proper altitude. When a balloon sinks so low that a good deal of the guide-rope rests on the ground, it is relieved of so much weight and therefore tends to rise; if on the other hand it rises so that most of the rope is lifted off the ground, it has to bear a greater weight and tends to sink.

In 1863 A. Nadar, a Paris photographer, constructed “Le Geant,” which was the largest gas-balloon made up to that time and contained over 200,000 cub. ft. of gas. Underneath it was placed a smaller balloon, called a compensator, the object of which was to prevent loss of gas during the voyage. The car had two stories, and was, in fact, a model of a cottage in wicker-work, 8 ft. in height by 13 ft. in length, containing a small printing-office, a photographic department, a refreshment-room, a lavatory, &c. The first ascent took place at five o'clock on Sunday the 4th of October 1863, from the Champ de Mars. There were thirteen persons in the car, including one lady, the princess de la Tour d’Auvergne, and the two aeronauts Louis and Jules Godard. In spite of the elaborate preparations that had been made and the stores of provisions that were taken up, the balloon descended at nine o'clock, at Meaux, the early descent being rendered necessary, it was said, by an accident to the valve-line. At a second ascent, made a fortnight later, there were nine passengers, including Madame Nadar. The balloon descended at the expiration of seventeen hours, near Nienburg in Hanover, a distance of about 400 m. A strong wind was blowing, and it was dragged over the ground for 7 or 8 m. All the passengers were bruised, and some seriously hurt. The balloon and car were then brought to England, and exhibited at the Crystal Palace at the end of 1863 and beginning of 1864. The two ascents of Nadar’s balloon excited an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm and interest, vastly out of proportion to what they were entitled to. Nadar’s idea was to obtain sufficient money, by the exhibition of his balloon, to carry out a plan of aerial locomotion he had conceived possible by means of the principle of the screw; in fact, he spoke of “Le Geant” as “the last balloon.” He also started L’Aeronaute, a newspaper devoted to aerostation, and published a small book, which was translated into English under the title The Right to Fly.

Fig. 6.—The Great Nassau Balloon.

Directly after Nadar’s two ascents, Eugene Godard constructed a fire-balloon of nearly half a million cubic feet capacity—more than double that of Nadar’s and only slightly less than that attributed to the “Flesselles” of 1783. The air was heated by an 18-ft. stove, weighing, with the chimney, 980 ℔. This furnace was fed by straw; and the “car” consisted of a gallery surrounding it. Two ascents of this balloon, the first fire-balloon seen in London, were made from Cremorne Gardens in July 1864. After the first journey the balloon descended at Greenwich, and after the second at Walthamstow, where it was injured by being blown against a tree. Notwithstanding its enormous size, Godard asserted that it could be inflated in half an hour, and the inflation at Cremorne did not occupy more than an hour. In spite of the rapidity with which the inflation was effected, few who saw the ascent could fail to receive an impression unfavourable to the fire-balloon in the matter of safety, as a rough descent, with a heated furnace as it were in the car, could not be other than most dangerous.

In the summer of 1873 the proprietors of the New York Daily Graphic, reviving a project discussed by Green in 1840, determined to construct a very large balloon, and enable the American aeronaut, John Wise, to realize his favourite scheme of crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, by taking advantage of the current from west Long balloon voyages.to east which was believed by many to exist constantly at heights above 10,000 ft. The project came to nothing owing to the quality of the material of which the balloon was made. When it was being inflated in September 1873 a rent was observed after 325,000 cub. ft. of gas had been put in, and the whole rapidly collapsed. The size was said to be such as to contain 400,000 cub. ft., so that it would lift a weight of 14,000 lb. No balloon voyage has yet been made of a length comparable to the breadth of the Atlantic. In fact only two voyages exceeding 1000 m. are on record—that of John Wise from St Louis to Henderson, N.Y., 1120 m., in 1859, and that of Count Henry de la Vaulx from Paris to Korosticheff in Russia, 1193 m., in 1900. On the 11th of July 1897 Salomon Andree, with two companions, Strendberg and Frankel, ascended from Spitzbergen in a daring attempt to reach the North Pole, about 600 m. distant. One carrier pigeon, apparently liberated 48 hours after the start, was shot, and two floating buoys with messages were found, but nothing more was heard of the explorers.

At an early date the balloon was applied to scientific purposes. So far back as 1784, Dr Jeffries made an ascent from London in which he carried out barometric, thermometric and hygrometric observations, also collecting samples of the air at different heights. In 1803 the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences, entertaining the opinion that the Scientific ascents.experiments made on mountain-sides by J. A. Deluc, H. B. de Saussure, A. von Humboldt and others must give results different from those made in free air at the same heights, resolved to arrange a balloon ascent. Accordingly, on the 30th of January 1808, Sacharof, a member of the academy, ascended in a gas-balloon, in company with a French aeronaut, É. G. Robertson, who at one time gave conjuring entertainments in Paris. The ascent was made at a quarter past seven, and the descent effected at a quarter to eleven. The height reached was less than 11/2 m. The experiments were not very systematically made, and the chief results were the filling and bringing down of several flasks of air collected at different elevations, and the supposed observation that the magnetic dip was altered. A telescope fixed in the bottom of the car and pointing vertically downwards enabled the travellers to ascertain exactly the spot over which they were floating at any moment. Sacharof found that, on shouting downwards through his speaking-trumpet, the echo from the earth was quite distinct, and at his height was audible after an interval of about ten seconds (Phil. Mag., 1805, 21, p. 193).

Some of the results reported by Robertson appearing doubtful, Laplace proposed to the members of the French Academy of Sciences that the funds placed by the government at their disposal for the prosecution of useful experiments should be utilized in sending up balloons to test their accuracy. The proposition was supported by J. A. C. Chaptal, the chemist, who was then minister of the interior, and accordingly the necessary arrangements were speedily effected, the charge of the experiments being given to L. J. Gay-Lussac and J. B. Biot. The principal object of this ascent was to determine whether the magnetic force experienced any appreciable diminution at heights above the earth’s surface. On the 24th of August 1804, Gay-Lussac and Biot ascended from the Conservatoire des Arts at ten o'clock in the morning. Their magnetic experiments were incommoded by the rotation of the balloon, but they found that, up to the height of 13,000 ft., the time of vibration of a magnet was appreciably the same as on the earth’s surface. They found also that the air became drier as they ascended. The height reached was about 13,000 ft., and the temperature declined from 63° to 51° F. The descent was effected about half-past one, at Meriville, 18 leagues from Paris.

In a second experiment, which was made on the 16th of September 1804, Gay-Lussac ascended alone. The balloon left the Conservatoire des Arts at 9.40 a.m., and descended at 3.45 p.m. between Rouen and Dieppe. The chief result obtained was that the magnetic force, like gravitation, did not experience any sensible variation at heights from the earth’s surface which we can attain to. Gay-Lussac also brought down air collected at the height of nearly 23,000 ft., and on analysis it appeared that its composition was the same as that of air collected at the earth’s surface. At the time of leaving the earth the thermometer stood at 82° F., and at the highest point reached (23,000 ft.) it was 14·9° F. Gay-Lussac remarked that at his highest point there were still clouds above him.

From 1804 to 1850 there is no record of any scientific ascents in balloons having been undertaken. In the latter year J. A. Bixio (1808–1865) and A. Barral (1819–1884) made two ascents of this kind. In the first they ascended from the Paris observatory on the 29th of June 1850, at 10.27 a.m., the balloon being inflated with hydrogen gas. The day was a rough one, and the ascent took place without any previous attempt having been made to test the ascensional force of the balloon. When liberated, it rose with great rapidity, and becoming fully inflated it pressed upon the network, bulging out at the top and bottom. The ropes by which the car was suspended being too short, the balloon soon covered the travellers like an immense hood. In endeavouring to secure the valve-rope, they made a rent in the balloon, and the gas escaped so close to their faces as almost to suffocate them. Finding that they were descending then too rapidly, they threw overboard everything available, including their coats and only excepting the instruments. The ground was reached at 10h. 45m., near Lagny. Of course no observations were made. Their second ascent was made on the 27th of July, and was remarkable on account of the extreme cold met with. At about 20,000 ft. the temperature was 15° F., the balloon being enveloped in cloud; but on emerging from the cloud, at 23,000 ft., the temperature sank to −38° F., no less than 53° F. below that experienced by Gay-Lussac at the same elevation. The existence of these very cold clouds served to explain certain meteorological phenomena that were observed on the earth both the day before and the day after the ascent. Some pigeons were taken up in this, as in most other high ascents; when liberated, they showed a reluctance to leave the car, and then fell heavily downwards.

In July 1852 the committee of the Kew Observatory resolved to institute a series of balloon ascents, with the view of investigating such meteorological and physical phenomena as require the presence of an observer at a great height in the atmosphere. John Welsh (1824–1859) of the Kew Observatory was the observer, and the great "Nassau Balloon" was employed, with Green himself as the aeronaut. Four ascents were made in 1852, viz. on the 17th and 26th of August, the 31st of October and the 10th of November. The heights attained were 19,510, 19,100, 12,640 and 22,930 ft., and the lowest temperatures met with in the four ascents were 8·7° F. (19,380 ft.), 12·4° F. (18,370 ft.), 16·4° F. (12,640 ft.) and 10·5° F. (22,370 ft.). The decline of temperature was very regular. A siphon barometer, dry and wet bulb thermometers, aspirated and free, and a Regnault hygrometer were taken up. Some air collected at a considerable height was found on analysis not to differ appreciably in its composition from air collected near the ground. For the original observations see Phil. Trans., 1853, pp. 311-346.

At the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Aberdeen in 1859, a committee was appointed for the purpose of making observations in the higher strata of the atmosphere by means of the balloon. For two years nothing was effected, owing to the want both of an observer and of a suitable balloon. After its Glaisher’s ascents.reappointment at the Manchester meeting of 1861, the committee communicated with Henry Tracey Coxwell (1819–1900), an aeronaut who had made a good many ascents, and he agreed to construct a new balloon, of 90,000 cub. ft. capacity, on the condition that the committee would undertake to use it, and pay £25 for each high ascent made especially on its behalf, defraying also the cost of gas, &c., so that the expense of each high ascent amounted to nearly £50. An observer being still wanted, James Glaisher, a member of the committee, offered himself to take the observations, and accordingly the first ascent was made on the 17th of July 1862, from the gas-works at Wolverhampton, this town being chosen on account of its central position in the country. Altogether, Glaisher made twenty-eight ascents, the last being on the 26th of May 1866. Of these only seven were specially high ascents, although six others were undertaken for the objects of the committee alone. On the other occasions he availed himself of public ascents from the Crystal Palace and other places of entertainment, merely taking his place like the other passengers. In the last six ascents another aeronaut and a smaller balloon were employed. The dates, places of ascent and greatest heights (in feet) attained in the twenty-eight ascents were—1862: July 17, Wolverhampton, 26,177; July 30, Crystal Palace, 6937; August 18, Wolverhampton, 23,377; August 20, Crystal Palace, 5900; August 21, Hendon, 14,355; September 1, Crystal Palace, 4190; September 5, Wolverhampton, 37,000; September 8, Crystal Palace, 5428. 1863: March 31, Crystal Palace, 22,884; April 18, Crystal Palace, 24,163; June 26, Wolverton, 23,200; July 11, Crystal Palace, 6623; July 21, Crystal Palace, 3298; August 31, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 8033; September 29, Wolverhampton, 16,590; October 9, Crystal Palace, 7310. 1864: January 12, Woolwich, 11,897; April 6, Woolwich, 11,075; June 13, Crystal Palace, 3543; June 20, Derby, 4280; June 27, Crystal Palace, 4898; August 29, Crystal Palace, 14,581; December 1, Woolwich, 5431; December 30, Woolwich, 3735. 1865: February 27, Woolwich, 4865; October 2, Woolwich, 1949; December 2, Woolwich, 4628. 1866: May 26, Windsor, 6325.

The primary object of the ascents was to determine the temperature of the air, and its hygrometrical state at different elevations to as great a height as could be reached; and the secondary objects were—(1) to determine the temperature of the dew-point by Daniell’s and Regnault’s hygrometers, as well as by the dry and wet bulb thermometers, and to compare the results; (2) to compare the readings of an aneroid barometer with those of a mercurial barometer up to the height of 5 m.; (3) to determine the electrical state of the air, (4) the oxygenic condition of the atmosphere, and (5) the time of vibration of a magnet; (6) to collect air at different elevations; (7) to note the height and kind of clouds, their density and thickness; (8) to determine the rate and direction of different currents in the atmosphere; and (9) to make observations on sound. The instruments used were mercurial and aneroid barometers, dry and wet bulb thermometers, Daniell’s dew-point hygrometer, Regnault’s condensing hygrometer, maximum and minimum thermometers, a magnet for horizontal vibration, hermetically sealed glass tubes exhausted of air, and an electrometer. In one or two of the ascents a camera was taken up.

The complete observations, both as made and after reduction, are printed in the British Association Reports, 1862–1866; here only a general account of the results can be given. It appeared that the rate of the decline of temperature with elevation near the earth was very different according as the sky was clear or cloudy; and the equality of temperature at sunset and increase with height after sunset were very remarkable facts which were not anticipated. Even at the height of 5 m., cirrus clouds were seen high in the air, apparently as far above as they seem when viewed from the earth. The results of the observations differed very much, and no doubt the atmospheric conditions depended not only on the time of day, but also on the season of the year, and were such that a vast number of ascents would be requisite to determine the true laws with anything approaching to certainty and completeness. It was also clear that England is a most unfit country for the pursuit of such investigations, as, from whatever place the balloon started, it was never safe to be more than an hour above the clouds for fear of reaching the sea. It appeared from the observations that an aneroid barometer could be trusted to read as accurately as a mercurial barometer to the heights reached. The time of vibration of a horizontal magnet was taken in very many of the ascents, and the results of ten different sets of observations indicated that the time of vibration was longer than on the earth. In almost all the ascents the balloon was under the influence of currents of air in different directions which varied greatly in thickness. The direction of the wind on the earth was sometimes that of the whole mass of air up to 20,000 ft., whilst at other times the direction changed within 500 ft. of the earth. Sometimes directly opposite currents were met with at different heights in the same ascent, and three or four streams of air were encountered moving in different directions. The direct distances between the places of ascent and descent, apart from the movements of the balloon under the influence of these various currents, were always very much greater than the horizontal movement of the air as measured by anemometers. For example, on the 12th of January 1862, the balloon left Woolwich at 2h. 8m. p.m., and descended at Lakenheath, 70 m. distant from the place of ascent, at 4h. 19m. p.m. At the Greenwich Observatory, by a Robinson anemometer, during this time the motion of the air was 6 m. only. With regard to physiological observations, Glaisher found that the frequency of his pulse increased with elevation, as also did the number of inspirations. The number of his pulsations was generally 76 per minute before starting, about 90 at 10,000 ft., 100 at 20,000 ft., and 110 at higher elevations. But a good deal depended on the temperament of the individual. This was also the case in respect to colour; at 10,000 ft. the faces of some would be a glowing purple, whilst others would be scarcely affected; at 4 m. high Glaisher found the pulsations of his heart distinctly audible, and his breathing was very much affected, so that panting was produced by the slightest exertion; at 29,000 ft. he became insensible. In reference to the propagation of sound, it was at all times found that sounds from the earth were more or less audible according to the amount of moisture in the air. When in clouds at 4 m. high, a railway train was heard; but when clouds were far below, no sound ever reached the ear at this elevation. The discharge of a gun was heard at 10,000 ft. The barking of a dog was heard at the height of 2 m., while the shouting of a multitude of people was not audible at heights exceeding 4000 ft. In his ascent of the 5th of September 1862, Glaisher considered that he reached a height of 37,000 ft. But that figure was based, not on actual record, but on the circumstances that at 29,000 ft., when he became insensible, the balloon was rising 1000 ft. a minute, and that when he recovered consciousness thirteen minutes later it was falling 2000 ft. a minute, and the accuracy of his conclusions has been questioned. Few scientific men have imitated Glaisher in making high ascents for meteorological observations. In 1867 and 1868 Camille Flammarion made eight or nine ascents from Paris for scientific purposes. The heights attained were not great, but the general result was to confirm the observations of Glaisher; for an account see Voyages aériens, Paris, 1870, or Travels in the Air, London, 1871, in which also some ascents by W. de Fonvielle are noticed. On the 15th of April 1875, H. T. Sivel, J. E. Crocé-Spinelli and Gaston Tissandier ascended from Paris in the balloon “Zenith,” and reached a height of 27,950 ft.; but only Tissandier came down alive, his two companions being asphyxiated. This put an end to such attempts for a time. But Dr A. Berson and Lieut. Gross attained 25,840 ft. on the 11th of May 1894; Berson, ascending alone from Strassfurt on the 4th of December 1894, attained about 31,500 ft. and recorded a temperature of −54° F.; and Berson and Stanley Spencer are stated by the latter to have attained 27,500 ft. on the 15th of September 1898 when they ascended in a hydrogen balloon from the Crystal Palace, the thermometer registering −29° F. On the 31st of July 1901, Berson and R. J. Süring, ascending at Berlin, actually noted a barometric reading corresponding to a height of 34,500 ft., and possibly rose 1000 or 1500 ft. higher, though in spite of oxygen inhalations they were unconscious during the highest portion of the ascent.

The personal danger attending high ascents led Gustave Hermite and Besançon in November 1892 to inaugurate the sending up of unmanned balloons (ballons sondes) equipped with automatic recording instruments, and kites (q.v.) have also been employed for similar meteorological purposes. (See also Meteorology.)

The balloon had not been discovered very long before it received a military status, and soon after the beginning of the French revolutionary war an aeronautic school was founded at Meudon, in charge of Guyton de Morveau, the chemist, and Colonel J. M. J. Coutelle (1748–1835). Four balloons were constructed for the armies of the north, of Military balloons.the Sambre and Meuse, of the Rhine and Moselle, and of Egypt. In June 1794 Coutelle ascended with the adjutant and general to reconnoitre the hostile army just before the battle of Fleurus, and two reconnaissances were made, each occupying four hours. It is generally stated that it was to the information so gained that the French victory was due. The balloon corps was in constant requisition during the campaign, but it does not appear that, with the exception of the reconnaissances just mentioned, any great advantages resulted, except in a moral point of view. But even this was of importance, as the enemy were much disconcerted at having their movements so completely watched, while the French were correspondingly elated at the superior information it was believed they were gaining. An attempt was made to revive the use of balloons in the African campaign of 1830, but no opportunity occurred in which they could be employed. It is said that in 1849 a reconnoitring balloon was sent up from before Venice, as also were small balloons loaded with bombs to be exploded by time-fuses. In the French campaign against Italy in 1859 the French had recourse to the use of balloons, but this time there was not any aerostatic corps, and their management was entrusted to the brothers Godard. Several reconnaissances were made, and one of especial interest the day before the battle of Solferino. No information of much importance seems, however, to have been gained thereby. In the American Civil War (1861) balloons were a good deal used by the Federals. There was a regular balloon staff attached to McClellan’s army, with a captain, an assistant-captain and about 50 non-commissioned officers and privates. The apparatus consisted of two generators, drawn by four horses each; two balloons, drawn by four horses each, and an acid-cart, drawn by two horses. The two balloons used contained about 13,000 and 26,000 ft. of gas, and the inflation usually occupied about three hours. (See Royal Engineers’ Papers, vol. xii.) By their aid useful information was gained about the enemy round Richmond and in other places, but eventually difficulties of transport and the topography of the theatre of war made ballooning impracticable; and little was heard of it after the first two years of the war.

The balloon proved itself very valuable during the siege of Paris (1870–71). It was by it alone that communication was kept up between the besieged city and the external world, as the balloons carried away from Paris the pigeons which afterwards brought back to it the news of the provinces. The total number of balloons that ascended from Paris during the siege, conveying persons and despatches, was sixty-four—the first having started on the 23rd of September 1870, and the last on the 28th of January 1871. Gambetta effected his escape from Paris, on the 7th of October, in the balloon “Armand-Barbes,” an event which doubtless led to the prolongation of the war. Of the sixty-four balloons only two were never heard of; they were blown out to sea. One of the most remarkable voyages was that of the “Ville d'Orleans,” which, leaving Paris at eleven o'clock on the 21st of November, descended fifteen hours afterwards near Christiania, having crossed the North Sea. Several of the balloons on their descent were taken by the Prussians, and a good many were fired at while in the air. The average size of the balloons was from 2000 to 2050 metres, or from 70,000 to 72,000 cub. ft. The above facts are extracted from Les Ballons du siège de Paris, a sheet published by Bulla and Sons, Paris, and compiled by the brothers Tissandier, well-known French aeronauts, which gives the name, size and times of ascent and descent of every balloon that left Paris, with the names of the aeronaut and generally also of the passengers, the weight of despatches, the number of pigeons, &c. Only those balloons, however, are noticed in which some person ascended. The balloons were manufactured and despatched (generally from the platforms of the Orleans or the Northern railway) under the direction of the Post Office. The aeronauts employed were mostly sailors, who did their work very well. No use whatever was made in the war of balloons for purposes of reconnaissance.

Ballooning, however, as a recognized military science, only dates back to about the year 1883 or 1884, when most of the powers organized regular balloon establishments. In 1884–85 the French found balloons very useful during their campaign in Tongking; and the British government also despatched balloons with the Bechuanaland expedition, and also with that to Suakin in those years. During the latter campaign several ascents were made in the presence of the enemy, on whom it was said that a great moral effect was produced. The employment of balloons has been common in nearly all modern wars.

We may briefly describe the apparatus used in military operations. The French in the campaigns of the 19th century used varnished silk balloons of about 10,000 cub. ft. capacity. The Americans in the Civil War used much larger ones. those of 26,000 cub. ft. being found the most suitable. These were also of varnished silk. In the present day most nations use balloons of about 20,000 cub. ft., made of varnished cambric; but the British war balloons, made of goldbeater skin, are usually of comparatively small size, the normal capacity being 10,000 cub. ft., though others of 7000 and 4500 cub. ft. have also been used, as at Suakin. The usual shape is spherical; but since 1896 the Germans, and now other nations, have adopted a long cylindrical-shaped balloon, so affixed to its cable as to present an inclined surface to the wind and thus act partly on the principle of a kite. Though coal-gas and even hot air may occasionally be used for inflation, hydrogen gas is on account of its lightness far preferable. In the early days of ballooning this had to be manufactured in the field, but nowadays it is almost universally carried compressed in steel tubes. About 100 such tubes, each weighing 75 ℔, are required to fill a 10,000-ft. balloon. Tubes of greater capacity have also been tried.

The balloon is almost always used captive. If allowed to go free it will usually be rapidly carried away by the wind and the results of the observations cannot easily be transmitted back. Occasions may occur when such ascents will be of value, but the usual method is to send up a captive balloon to a height of somewhere about 1000 ft. With the standard British balloon two officers are sent up, one of whom has now particularly to attend to the management of the balloon, while the other makes the observations.

With regard to observations from captive balloons much depends on circumstances. In a thickly wooded country, such as that in which the balloons were used in the American Civil War, and in the war in Cuba (in which the balloon merely served to expose the troops to severe fire), no very valuable information is, as a rule, to be obtained; but in fairly open country all important movements of troops should be discernible by an experienced observer at any point within about four or five miles of the balloon. The circumstances, it may be mentioned, are such as would usually preclude one unaccustomed to ballooning from affording valuable reports. Not only is he liable to be disturbed by the novel and apparently hazardous situation, but troops and features of the ground often have so peculiar an appearance from that point of view, that a novice will often have a difficulty in deciding whether an object be a column of troops or a ploughed field. Then again, much will depend on atmospheric conditions. Thus, in misty weather a balloon is well-nigh useless; and in strong winds, with a velocity of anything over 20 m. an hour, efficient observation becomes a matter of difficulty. When some special point has to be reported on, such as whether there is any large body of troops behind a certain hill or wood, a rapid ascent may still be made in winds up to 30 m. an hour, but the balloon would then be so unsteady that no careful scouting could be made. It is usually estimated that a successful captive ascent can only be made in England on half the days of the year. As a general rule balloon ascents would be made for one of the following objects:—to examine the country for an enemy; to reconnoitre the enemy’s position; to ascertain the strength of his force, number of guns and exact situation of the various arms; also to note the plan of his earthworks or fortifications. During an action the aerial observer would be on the look-out for any movements of the enemy and give warning of flank attacks or surprises. Such an observer could also keep the general informed as to the progress of various detached parties of his own force, as to the advance of reinforcements, or to the conduct of any fighting going on at a distance. Balloon observations are also of especial aid to artillery in correcting their aim.


Photo. Topical Press.



Photo. Topical Press.


Photo. Topical Press.



Photo. Topical Press.

The vulnerability of a captive balloon to the enemy’s fire has been tested by many experiments with variable results. One established fact is that the range of a balloon in mid-air is extremely difficult to judge, and, as its altitude can be very rapidly altered, it becomes a very difficult mark for artillery to hit. A few bullet-holes in the fabric of a balloon make but little difference, since the size of the perforation is very minute as compared with the great surface of material, but on the other hand, a shrapnel bursting just in front of it may cause a rapid fall. It is therefore considered prudent to keep the balloon well away from an enemy, and two miles are laid down as the nearest approach it should make habitually.

Besides being of use on land for war purposes, balloons have been tried in connexion with the naval service. In France especially regular trials have been made of inflating balloons on board ships, and sending them aloft as a look-out; but it is now generally contended that the difficulties of storing the gas and of manœuvring the balloon are so great on board ship as to be hardly worth the results to be gained.

A very important development of military ballooning is the navigable balloon. If only a balloon could be sent up and driven in any required direction, and brought back to its starting-point, it is obvious that it would be of the very greatest use in war.

From the very first invention of balloons the problem has been how to navigate them by propulsion. General J. B. M. C. Meusnier (1754–1793) proposed an elongated balloon in 1784. It was experimented on by the brothers Robert, who made two ascensions and claimed to have obtained a deviation of 22° from the direction of a light Dirigible balloons.wind by means of aerial oars worked by hand. The relative speed was probably about 3 m. an hour, and it was so evident that a very much more energetic light motor than any then known was required to stem ordinary winds that nothing more was attempted till 1852, when Henri Giffard (1825–1882) ascended with a steam-engine of then unprecedented lightness. The subjoined table exhibits some of the results subsequently obtained:—

Experiments with Dirigible Balloons
 Year.  Inventor.  Length.  Diameter.  Contents. Lifting
 Weight of 
 Weight of 
H.P. Speed
 per hour. 
Ft. Ft. Cub. Ft. ℔. ℔. ℔. Miles.
1852  Giffard 144 39 88,300 3,978 2,794 462 3·0 6·71
1872  Dupuy de Lôme 118 49 120,088 8,358 4,728 2000 0·8 6·26
1884  Tissandier 92 30 37,439 2,728 933 616 1·5 7·82
1885  Renard and Krebs 165 27 65,836 4,402 2,449 1174 9·0 14·00
1897  Schwarz 157 46
130,500 8,133 6,800 800? 16·0 17·00
1900  Zeppelin I. 420 39 400,000 25,000 19,000 1500 32·0 18·00
1901  Santos Dumont VI.  108 20 22,200 . . . . . . 16·20 19·00
1908  “République” 195 35 130,000 3,100 . . . . 80  30
1908  Zeppelin IV. 446 421/2 450,000 . . . . . .  220 . .

Giffard, the future inventor of the injector, devised a steam-engine weighing, with fuel and water for one hour, 154 ℔. per horse-power, and was bold enough to employ it in proximity to a balloon inflated with coal gas. He was not able to stem a medium wind, but attained some deviation. He repeated the experiment in 1855 with a more elongated spindle, which proved unstable and dangerous. During the siege of Paris the French Government decided to build a navigable balloon, and entrusted the work to the chief naval constructor, Dupuy de Lôme. He went into the subject very carefully, made estimates of all the strains, resistances and speeds, and tested the balloon in 1872. Deviations of 12° were obtained from the course of a wind blowing 27 to 37 m. per hour. The screw propeller was driven by eight labourers, a steam-engine being deemed too dangerous; but it was estimated that had one been used, weighing as much as the men, the speed would have been doubled. Tissandier and his brother applied an electric motor, lighter than any previously built, to a spindle-shaped balloon, and went up twice in 1883 and 1884. On the latter occasion he stemmed a wind of 7 m. per hour. The brothers abandoned these experiments, which had been carried on at their own expense, when the French War Department took up the problem. Renard and Krebs, the Officers in charge of the War Aeronautical Department at Meudon, built and experimented with in 1884 and 1885 the fusiform balloon “La France,” in which the “master” or maximum section was about one-quarter of the distance from the stem. The propelling screw was at the front of the car and driven by an electric motor of unprecedented lightness. Seven ascents were made on very calm days, a maximum speed of 14 m. an hour was obtained, and the balloon returned to its starting-point on five of the seven occasions. Subsequently another balloon was constructed, said to be capable of a speed of 22 to 28 m. per hour, with a different motor. After many years of experiment Dr Wölfert built and experimented with in Berlin, in 1897, a cigar-shaped balloon driven by a gasoline motor. An explosion took place in the air, the balloon fell and Dr Wölfert and his assistant were killed. It was also in 1897 that an aluminium balloon was built from the designs of D. Schwarz and tested in Berlin. It was driven by a Daimler benzine motor, and attained a greater speed than “La France”; but a driving belt slipped, and in coming down the balloon was injured beyond repair.

From 1897 onwards Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, of the German army, was engaged in constructing an immense balloon, truly an airship, of most careful and most intelligent design, to carry five men. It consisted of an aluminium framework containing sixteen gas bags with a total capacity of nearly 400,000 cub. ft., and it had two cars, each containing a 16 h.p. motor. It was first tested in June 1900, when it attained a speed of 18 m. an hour and travelled a distance of 31/2 m. before an accident to the steering gear necessitated the discontinuance of the experiment. In 1905 Zeppelin built a second airship which had a slightly smaller capacity but much greater power, its two motors each developing 85 h.p. This, after making some successful trips, was wrecked in a violent gale, and was succeeded by a third airship, which, at its trial in October 1906, travelled round Lake Constance and showed itself able to execute numerous curves and traverses. At a second series of trials in September 1907, after some alterations had been effected, it attained a speed of 36 m. an hour, remaining in the air for many hours and carrying nine or eleven passengers. A fourth vessel of similar design, but with more powerful motors, was tried in 1908, and succeeded in travelling 250 m. in 11 hours, but owing to a storm it was wrecked when on land and burnt at Echterdingen on the 5th of August. Subscriptions, headed by the emperor, were at once raised to enable Zeppelin to build another. Meanwhile in 1901 Alberto Santos Dumont had begun experiments with dirigible balloons in Paris, and on the 19th of October won the Deutsch prize by steering a balloon from St Cloud round the Eiffel tower and back in half an hour, encountering on his return journey a wind of nearly 5 metres a second. An airship constructed by Pierre and Paul Lebaudy in 1904 also made a number of successful trials in the vicinity of Paris; with a motor of 40 h.p., its speed was about 25 m. an hour, and it regularly carried three passengers. In October 1907 the “Nulli Secundus,” an airship constructed for the British War Office, sailed from Farnborough round St Paul’s Cathedral, London, to the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, a distance of about 50 m., in 3 hours 35 minutes. The weight carried, including two occupants, was 3400 ℔, and the maximum speed was 24 m. an hour, with a following wind of 8 m. an hour.

Thus the principles which govern the design of the dirigible balloon may be said to have been evolved. As the lifting power grows as the cube of the dimensions, and the resistance approximately as the square, the advantage lies with the larger sizes of balloons, as of ocean steamers, up to the limits within which they may be found practicable. Count Zeppelin gained an advantage by attaching his propellers to the balloon, instead of to the car as heretofore; but this requires a rigid framework and a great increase of weight. Le Compagnon endeavoured, in 1892, to substitute flapping wings for rotary propellers, as the former can be suspended near the centre of resistance. C. Danilewsky followed him in 1898 and 1899, but without remarkable results. Dupuy de Lôme was the first to estimate in detail the resistances to balloon propulsion, but experiment showed that in the aggregate they were greater than he calculated. Renard and Krebs also found that their computed resistances were largely exceeded, and after revising the results they gave the formula R=0·01685 D2V2, R being the resistance in kilograms, D the diameter in metres and V the velocity in metres per second. Reduced to British measures, in pounds, feet and miles per hour, R=0·0006876 D2V2, which is somewhat in excess of the formula computed by Dr William Pole from Dupuy de Lôme’s experiments. The above coefficient applies only to the shape and rigging of the balloon “La France,” and combines all resistances into one equivalent, which is equal to that of a flat plane 18% of the “master section.” This coefficient may perhaps hereafter be reduced by one-half through a better form of hull and car, more like a fish than a spindle, by diminished sections of suspension lines and net, and by placing the propeller at the centre of resistance. To compute the results to be expected from new projects, it will be preferable to estimate the resistances in detail. The following table shows how this was done by Dupuy de Lôme, and the probable corrections which should have been made by him:—

Resistances—Dupuy de Lôme’s Balloon
Computed by Dupuy de Lôme.
V=2·22 m. per sec.
More Probable Values.
V=2·82 m. per sec.
Part. Area, Sq.
Hull, without net  172·96 1/30 0·665  3·830 1/15 0·875 10·091
Car   3·25 1/5  {{{1}}}  0·432 1/5  {{{1}}}  0·569
Men’s bodies   3·00 1/5  {{{1}}}  0·400 1/2  {{{1}}}  1·312
Gas tubes   6·40 1/5  {{{1}}}  0·850 1/2  {{{1}}}  2·750
Small cords  10·00 1/2  {{{1}}}  3·325 1/2  {{{1}}}  4·375
Large cords   9·90 1/3  {{{1}}}  2·194 1/3  {{{1}}}  2·887
11·031 21·984

When the resistances have been reduced to the lowest minimum by careful design, the attainable speed must depend upon the efficiency of the propeller and the relative lightness of the motor. The commercial uses of dirigible balloons, however, will be small, as they must remain housed when the wind aloft is brisk. The sizes will be great and costly, the loads small, and the craft frail and short-lived, yet dirigible balloons constitute the obvious type for governments to evolve, until they are superseded by efficient flying machines. (See further, as to the latter, the article Flight and Flying.)

The chief danger attending ballooning lies in the descent; for if a strong wind be blowing, the grapnel will sometimes trail for miles over the ground at the rate of ten or twenty miles an hour, catching now and then in hedges, ditches, roots of trees, &c.; and, after giving the balloon a terrible jerk, breaking loose again, till at length some obstruction,Practice of aerostation such as the wooded bank of a stream, affords a firm hold. This danger, however, has been much reduced by the use of the “ripping-cord,” which enables a panel to be ripped open and the balloon to be completely deflated in a few seconds, just as it is reaching the earth. But even a very rough descent is usually not productive of any very serious consequences; as, although the occupants of the car generally receive many bruises and are perhaps cut by the ropes, it rarely happens that anything worse occurs. On a day when the wind is light (supposing that there is no want of ballast) nothing can be easier than the descent, and the aeronaut can decide several miles off on the field in which he will alight. It is very important to have a good supply of ballast, so as to be able to check the rapidity of the descent, as in passing downwards through a wet cloud the weight of the balloon is enormously increased by the water deposited on it; and if there is no ballast to throw out in compensation, the velocity is sometimes very great. It is also convenient, if the district upon which the balloon is descending appear unsuitable for landing, to be able to rise again. The ballast consists of fine baked sand, which becomes so scattered as to be inappreciable before it has fallen far below the balloon. It is taken up in bags containing about 1/2 cwt. each. The balloon at starting is liberated by a spring catch which the aeronaut releases, and the ballast should be so adjusted that there is nearly equilibrium before leaving, else the rapidity of ascent is too great, and has to be checked by parting with gas. It is almost impossible to liberate the balloon in such a way as to avoid giving it a rotary motion about a vertical axis, which continues during the whole time it is in the air. This rotation makes it difficult for those in the car to discover in what direction they are moving; and it is only by looking down along the rope to which the grapnel is suspended that the motion of the balloon over the country below can be traced. The upward and downward motion at any instant is at once known by merely dropping over the side of the car a small piece of paper: if the paper ascends or remains on the same level or stationary, the balloon is descending; while, if it descends, the balloon is ascending. This test is exceedingly delicate.

References.—Tiberius Cavallo, Treatise on the Nature and Properties of Air and other permanently Elastic Fluids (London, 1781); Idem, History and Practice of Aerostation (London, 1785); Vincent Lunardi, Account of the First Aerial Voyage in England, in a Series of Letters to his Guardian (London, 1785); T. Forster, Annals of some Remarkable Aerial and Alpine Voyages (London, 1832); Monck Mason, Aeronautica (London, 1838); John Wise, A System of Aeronautics, comprehending its Earliest Investigations (Philadelphia, 1850); Hatton Turnor, Astra Castra, Experiments and Adventures in the Atmosphere (London, 1865); J. Glaisher, C. Flammarion, W. de Fonvielle and G. Tissandier, Voyages aériens (Paris, 1870) (translated and edited by James Glaisher under the title Travels in the Air (London, 1871); O. Chanute, Progress in Flying Machines (New York, 1894); W. de Fonvielle, Les Ballons sondes (Paris, 1899); Idem, Histoire de la navigation aérienne (Paris, 1907); F. Walker, Aerial Navigation (London, 1902); J. Lecornu, La Navigation aérienne (Paris, 1903); M. L. Marchis, Leçons sur la navigation aérienne (Paris, 1904), containing many references to books and periodicals on pp. 701-704; Navigating the Air (papers collected by the Aero Club of America) (New York, 1907); A. Hildebrandt, Airships past and present (London, 1908).

  1. Mr Tytler contributed largely to, and, indeed, appears to have been virtually editor of, the second edition (1778–1783) of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.