The next step in the history of aviation was the experiments in hot air balloons. In 1766 a chemist Henry Cavendish discovered that hydrogen was lighter than air which started a series of experiments to explore the possibility of lighter than air flight using hydrogen. The French pioneers, Charles and the Robert brothers conducted a series of successful experiments with hydrogen filled balloons.
The first successful balloon flight has been credited to Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier on 5th June, 1783 at Annonay, about 40 miles from Lyons in France. The brothers who were paper makers by trade, filled a linen bag with smoke and vapour from a fire of wood and straw. The balloon soared to a great height and descended over a mile away. Later that year J.A.C. Charles, a physicist, with the two Robert brothers successfully launched a silk balloon filled with hydrogen gas which flew for 15 miles and landed in the midst of terrified peasants in Paris. Hot air balloons came to be known as ‘Montgolfieres’ and the hydrogen filled balloons were ‘Charlieres’.
Joseph Montgolfier and his balloon can be seen on the 15r stamp in Liechtenstein’s 1948 air stamps and Charles’s balloon appears on a Latvian 15-75s air stamp of 1932. 1983 saw a spate of stamps issued to commemorate the second centenary of the first ever manned flight of the Montgolfier brothers.
However, the world’s first aeronaut was Jean Pilatre de Rozier of Metz who is portrayed on a 75c stamp issued by France in 1936. He made several ascents in a hot air balloon during October 1783. On 21st November he, accompanied by the Marquis d’Arlandes, made a flight of about 5 miles from the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, in an elaborately pained and decorated ‘Montgolfiere’. 10 days later Charles and one of the Robert brothers flew 25 miles from Paris to Nesle in a ‘Charliere’.
The second centenary of the first manned Hot Air Balloon flight was commemorated by a number of countries.
A set of stamps issued by Hungary in 1983: