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|Subject: Conquest of Air 14/11/2010, 12:12 pm|| |
In 1783, the most popular man in Europe was the United States ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin.Franklin with his calm eyes peering through the bifocals of his owninvention, projected great learning and fame and captivated thepeople's imagination. He was always leaving his post at the embassy towatch the trials of a new invention called the air balloon.First Air Balloon FlightsOn November 21 1783, Benjamin Franklin arrived at the gardens of theKing's hunting lodge in the Bois de Boulogne, on the outskirts ofParis, to witness an experiment. Two daring Frenchmen, Pilatre deRozier of the Royal Academy and his friend the Marquis d'Arlandes, wereplanning to ascend in a Montgolfier air balloon, the first men in history to do so. The crowds gathered to witness the event opened a lane for Benjamin Franklin to pass.At six minutes to two the aeronauts entered the car of their balloon;and, at a height of two hundred and seventy feet, waved their hats andsaluted the applauding spectators. Then the wind carried them awaytowards Paris. About half a mile from the starting point, the balloonbegan to descend over the River Seine; but when they fed the fire undertheir sack of hot air with chopped straw they rose to the elevation offive hundred feet. Safely across the river they dampened the fire witha sponge and made a gentle descent in Paris.At five o'clock that afternoon, at the King's Chateau in the Bois deBoulogne, the members of the Royal Academy signed a memorial of theevent. One of the spectators asked Benjamin Franklin, "What does Doctor Franklin conceive to be the use of this new invention?" "What is the use of a new-born child?" was Franklin's reply. Montgolfier Bothers, Jacques CharlesThe invention of the air balloon was only five months old, however,there were already two types of craft: the original Montgolfier bothersballoon, or fire balloon, inflated with hot air, and a modification by Jacques Charles, inflated with hydrogen gas.Like the MoonThe mass of the French people did not welcome the presence of giant airballoons above them. French soldiers were often ordered to protect theballoons. The fear of the people was so great that the Governmentissued a proclamation, explaining the invention that stated that anyoneseeing a globe, like the moon in an eclipse, should be aware that itwas only a bag made of taffeta or light canvas covered with paper andcould not possibly cause any harm and would someday serve society."Montgolfier BalloonBenjamin Franklin wrote a description of the Montgolfier air balloon toSir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society of London:"Its bottom was open and in the middle of the opening was fixed a kindof basket grate, in which faggots and sheaves of straw were burnt. Theair, rarefied in passing through this flame, rose in the balloon,swelled out its sides, and filled it.The persons, who were placed in the gallery made of wicker and attachedto the outside near the bottom, had each of them a port through whichthey could pass sheaves of straw into the grate to keep up the flameand thereby keep the balloon full.One of these courageous philosophers, the Marquis d'Arlandes, did methe honor to call upon me in the evening after the experiment, withMontgolfier, the very ingenious inventor. I was happy to see him safe.He informed me that they lit gently, without the least shock, and theballoon was very little damaged."Benjamin Franklin also wrote in his journals how the competition between the Montgolfier brothers and George Cayleyhad hastened the progress of the air balloon. Franklin saw air balloonsas a discovery of great importance, one that might possibly give a newturn to human affairs by convincing heads of state of the folly of war.However, Benjamin Franklin urged the inventors to immediately invent away to steer the new air balloons, which went in the direction of theprevailing wind.