Joseph Michel and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier were two brothers who worked in their father’s paper mill. They were not particularly scientific in nature but one day in the mill they discovered that it was possible to make paper and cloth bags float into the air by holding a flame near the opening of the bag.
In the Summer of 1783 the brothers made a huge silk covered paper bag and announced that they would demonstrate that it could fly in marketplace at Annonay. A large crowd witnessed the bag float more than 6,000 feet (1800 metres) into the sky.
On 19th September the brothers demonstrated their balloon in front of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The balloon carried a sheep, a duck and a rooster some 8 miles (13 kilometres) before landing safely.
Having successfully tested their new invention, the brothers began constructing a balloon capable of carrying humans from one place to another. On 15th October Jacques Étienne Montgolfier became the first human to ‘fly’ in a tethered hot air balloon. The giant balloon measuring around 75 feet (22.8 metres) in height rose about 80 feet (23 metres) into the air – the length of the rope tethering it to the ground.
On 21st November, having petitioned the King for the right, Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis d’Arlandes were the first humans to travel in free flight in a hot air balloon. They flew at an altitude of 3000 feet (915 metres) for a distance of about 5 miles (8 kilometres).
The Mongolfier brothers were honoured by the French Académie des Sciences.