Jean-Pier Blanchard

Jean-Pier Blanchard

French inventor.
Date of Birth: 04.07.1753
Country: France

  1. Biography of Jean-Pierre Blanchard
  2. Early Success in Paris
  3. Challenges and Achievements
  4. The Balloon Craze
  5. International Flights and Demos
  6. Parachute Invention
  7. Final Years

Biography of Jean-Pierre Blanchard

Jean-Pierre Blanchard was a French inventor and one of the pioneers of aviation in hot air balloons. He became one of the first successful creators of air balloons. Although balloons now play a minor role in practical aviation compared to airplanes, his inventions played a significant role in the development of aviation. Blanchard made many improvements to the modern parachute model.

Jean-Pier Blanchard

Early Success in Paris

On March 2, 1784, Blanchard successfully launched his first hydrogen-filled air balloon in Paris. The launch took place at the Mars Fields. The first successful manned flight took place on November 21, 1783, with Pilâtre de Rozier and Marquis d'Arlandes flying from the Versailles Palace in a Montgolfier hot air balloon. The first hydrogen balloon with passengers took flight on December 1, 1783, with Jacques Charles and Nicolas-Louis Robert launching the 'Charlière' from the Tuileries Garden in Paris.

Challenges and Achievements

Blanchard's debut flight almost ended in disaster when one of the observers, Dupont de Chambon, attacked the balloon with a sword out of frustration for being denied a place on board. Fortunately, serious consequences were avoided. The flight did not go as planned, with Blanchard initially intending to reach La Villette but ending up in Billancourt and then backtracking over the Seine. Blanchard eventually landed in Rue de Sèvres. His motto was 'Sic itur ad astra' ('Thus one goes to the stars').

The Balloon Craze

The early balloon flights captured the attention of the masses, leading to a balloon craze. Balloon imagery adorned various items, and many things were designed in the balloon style, including ceramics, fans, and even hats. Clothing styles were also influenced, with appliques and exaggeratedly puffy sleeves and round skirts becoming popular. Even hairstylists created new hairstyles, such as the 'Montgolfier,' 'Flying Balloon,' 'Hemisphere,' and even the 'Blanchard.'

International Flights and Demos

In August 1784, Blanchard moved to London and participated in John Sheldon's flight on October 16. Interestingly, this flight occurred only a few weeks after the first flight in Britain by Vincenzo Lunardi. Blanchard traveled extensively in Europe, demonstrating his balloons in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland. One notable event was his appearance at the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as the King of Bohemia in Prague in September 1791.

Parachute Invention

In 1783, Sébastien Lenormand invented the parachute, and in 1785, Blanchard demonstrated its effectiveness by jumping from his balloon. Initially, a dog was the first parachute user, but Blanchard later experienced the parachute's effectiveness personally. In 1793, his hot air balloon burst, forcing him to use the parachute for his own survival. The parachute was later improved, mainly focusing on compactness.

Final Years

On January 9, 1793, Blanchard made his first balloon flight in America. He took off from a prison yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and landed in Deptford, Gloucester County, New Jersey. President George Washington witnessed his flight, along with future presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.

On February 20, 1808, Blanchard suffered a heart attack while in the basket of his balloon. He fell out of the basket and sustained severe injuries upon landing. Unfortunately, he passed away a year later due to these injuries. His widow, Sophie Blanchard, continued to work with balloons for some time before she herself became a victim of the balloon.