A Brief History of Flight: From Balloons to Mach 3 and Beyond

A Brief History of Flight: From Balloons to Mach 3 and Beyond

A Brief History of Flight: From Balloons to Mach 3 and Beyond

A Brief History of Flight: From Balloons to Mach 3 and Beyond


The amazing chronicle of our passion for the sky Flight-subject of poetry, art, scientific inquiry, and war-continues to fascinate us. From the days before ballooning to the development of the Boeing 777, flight has fired our imaginations and transformed our lives. Meticulously researched and filled with entertaining first-person anecdotes, little-known historical facts, and offbeat humor, A Brief History of Flight puts into context the social, political, and economic factors that have stoked our passion for flight. You'll see how big business has helped the most daring-and expensive-inventions get off the ground, laugh at some of history's most bizarre flight attempts, and even get a rare peek inside some of the earliest passenger 'flight kits.' Whether you're an aviation buff, a business reader, a technology watcher, or simply interested in flight, A Brief History of Flight will leave you wondering what the world of aviation can possibly do for an encore.Critical Praise for T. A. Heppenheimer 'Countdown is by far the best history of space flight I have ever read. It is detailed, lucidly written for the layman, and full of fascinating stories.'-ADRIAN BERRY, Daily Telegraph, ON Countdown: A History of Space Flight'A lively account of the development of space activities in the U.S. and the Soviet Union . . . as good a one-volume overview of space as exists.'-Scientific American ON Countdown: A History of Space Flight 'With the precision of a scientist, a good reporter's marshaling of disparate facts, and the vigor of a natural storyteller, Heppenheimer offers an absorbing narrative.'-RICHARD SNOW, Editor, American Heritage, ON Turbulent Skies: The History of Commercial Aviation


More than two hundred years ago, King Louis XVI ruled at Versailles. the U.S. Constitution had not yet been written; Napoleon was merely a young lad in his teens. Yet it was in this era that aviation, complete with pilots, first began to take shape. More than a century before the Wright brothers, two Montgolfier brothers, Joseph and Étienne, invented the hot-air balloon. Their invention then took to the skies with astonishing rapidity. Men crossed the English Channel by air before they did so using steam, for steamships still lay well in the future.

Joseph and Étienne were two of sixteen children born to Anne and Pierre Montgolfier, a prosperous paper manufacturer in the French town of Annonay, near Lyon. Joseph, born in 1740, was a large man of powerful build, casual in his clothes, nondescript in his general appearance. He married a cousin, Thérèse, who was quite attractive. They had two children, and were happy together.

Joseph had a fine memory, readily learning lengthy songs and long poems by Voltaire. Yet he could forget the most basic things. Once he stayed with Thérèse at an inn, went out for a stroll the next morning, and left her in the room as he walked onward, lost in thought. His casual ways extended to his general attitudes, for he rarely became angry or lost his temper. They also encompassed his business practices, for he took little heed in his borrowing and spending, often calling on his father or other family members to rescue him from creditors.

When he was young, his father had sent him to a school run by Jesuits. He rebelled against its strictness and escaped into the country. Here he lived as a vagabond, working on farms and sleeping where he could. This did not last long, for the family soon retrieved him and sent him back to school. He put up with lessons in theology as best he could, but he also nurtured a growing interest in arithmetic, chemistry, and mechanics. a clerk in a bookstore slipped him texts . . .

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