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Pilâtre de Rozier

Pilâtre de Rozier

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Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier was a French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 and physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 teacher, and one of the first pioneers of aviation
Aviation
Aviation is the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. Aviation is derived from avis, the Latin word for bird.-History:...

. He and the Marquis d'Arlandes made the first manned free balloon flight on 21 November 1783, in a Montgolfier
Montgolfier brothers
Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier were the inventors of the montgolfière-style hot air balloon, globe aérostatique. The brothers succeeded in launching the first manned ascent, carrying Étienne into the sky...

 balloon. He later died when his balloon crashed near Wimereux
Wimereux
Wimereux is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Wimereux is a coastal town situated some north of Boulogne, at the junction of the D233 and the D940 roads, on the banks of the river Wimereux. The river Slack forms the northern boundary of...

 in the Pas-de-Calais during an attempt to fly across the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

. He and his companion, Pierre Romain, became the first known fatalities in an air crash.

Early life


He was born in Metz
Metz
Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

, the third son of Magdeleine Wilmard and Mathurin Pilastre, known as "du Rosier", a former soldier who became an innkeeper. His interests in the chemistry of drugs had been awakened in the military hospital of Metz
Metz
Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

, an important garrison town on the border of France. He made his way to Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 at the age of 18, then taught physics and chemistry at the Academy in Reims
Reims
Reims , a city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, lies east-northeast of Paris. Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire....

, which brought him to the attention of Monsieur, the comte de Provence
Louis XVIII of France
Louis XVIII , known as "the Unavoidable", was King of France and of Navarre from 1814 to 1824, omitting the Hundred Days in 1815...

, brother of King Louis XVI
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

.

He returned to Paris, where he was put in charge of Monsieur's cabinet of natural history
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

 and made a valet de chambre
Valet de chambre
Valet de chambre , or varlet de chambre, was a court appointment introduced in the late Middle Ages, common from the 14th century onwards. Royal Households had many persons appointed at any time...

to Monsieur's wife, Madame, which brought him his ennobled name, Pilâtre de Rozier. He opened his own museum in the Marais
Le Marais
Le Marais is a historic district in Paris, France. Long the aristocratic district of Paris, it hosts many outstanding buildings of historic and architectural importance...

 quarter of Paris on 11 December 1781, where he undertook experiments in physics, and provided demonstrations to nobles. He researched the new field of gas
Gas
Gas is one of the three classical states of matter . Near absolute zero, a substance exists as a solid. As heat is added to this substance it melts into a liquid at its melting point , boils into a gas at its boiling point, and if heated high enough would enter a plasma state in which the electrons...

es, and invented a respirator
Respirator
A respirator is a device designed to protect the wearer from inhaling harmful dusts, fumes, vapors, or gases. Respirators come in a wide range of types and sizes used by the military, private industry, and the public...

.

Flight pioneer



In June 1783, he witnessed the first public demonstration of a balloon
Balloon (aircraft)
A balloon is a type of aircraft that remains aloft due to its buoyancy. A balloon travels by moving with the wind. It is distinct from an airship, which is a buoyant aircraft that can be propelled through the air in a controlled manner....

 by the Montgolfier brothers
Montgolfier brothers
Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier were the inventors of the montgolfière-style hot air balloon, globe aérostatique. The brothers succeeded in launching the first manned ascent, carrying Étienne into the sky...

. On 19 September, he assisted with the untethered flight of a sheep, a cockerel and a duck from the front courtyard of the Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles , or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. In French it is the Château de Versailles....

. The French King Louis XVI decided that the first manned flight would contain two condemned criminals, but de Rozier enlisted the help of the Duchess de Polignac to support his view that the honour of becoming first balloonists should belong to someone of higher status, and the Marquis d'Arlandes agreed to accompany him. The King was persuaded to permit d'Arlandes and de Rozier to become the first pilots.

After several tethered tests to gain some experience of controlling the balloon, de Rozier and d'Arlandes made their first untethered flight in a Montgolfier hot air balloon on 21 November 1783, taking off at around 2 p.m. from the garden of the Château de la Muette
Château de la Muette
The Château de la Muette is a château located on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, France, near the Porte de la Muette.Three châteaux have been located on the site since a hunting lodge was transformed into the first château for Princess Marguerite de Valois, favorite daughter of King...

 in the Bois de Boulogne
Bois de Boulogne
The Bois de Boulogne is a park located along the western edge of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, near the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt and Neuilly-sur-Seine...

, in the presence of the King. Their 25-minute flight travelled slowly about 5½ miles (some 9 km) to the southeast, attaining an altitude of 3,000 feet, before returning to the ground at the Butte-aux-Cailles
Butte-aux-Cailles
The Butte-aux-Cailles is a neighbourhood of Paris, France located in the XIIIe arrondissement on one of the hills in the southeast corner of the city....

, then on the outskirts of Paris.


Along with Joseph Montgolfier, he was one of six passengers on a second flight on 19 January 1784, with a huge Montgolfier balloon Le Flesselles launched from Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

. Four French nobles paid for the trip, including a prince. Several difficulties had to be overcome. The wallpaper used to cover the balloon's envelope became wet because of extreme weather conditions. The top of the balloon was made of sheep- or buckskin
Buckskin (leather)
Buckskin is the soft, pliable, porous preserved hide of an animal, usually deer, moose or elk or even cowhide tanned to order, but potentially any animal's hide,. Modern leather labeled "buckskin" may be made of sheepskin tanned with modern chromate tanning chemicals and dyed to resemble real...

. The air was heated by wood in an iron stove: to start, the straw was set on fire with brandy
Brandy
Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35%–60% alcohol by volume and is typically taken as an after-dinner drink...

. (In other tests charcoal or potatoes were used). The balloon had a volume of approximately 23,000 m³, over 10 times that of the first flight, but it only flew a short distance. The spectators kneeled down when the balloon came down too quickly. That evening the aeronauts were celebrated after listening to Gluck's opera, Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride
Iphigénie en Tauride is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck in four acts. It was his fifth opera for the French stage. The libretto was written by Nicolas-François Guillard....

.

Rozier took part in a further flight on 23 June 1784, in a modified version of the Montgolfiers' first balloon christened La Marie-Antoinette after the Queen, which took off in front of the King of France and King Gustav III of Sweden
Gustav III of Sweden
Gustav III was King of Sweden from 1771 until his death. He was the eldest son of King Adolph Frederick and Queen Louise Ulrica of Sweden, she a sister of Frederick the Great of Prussia....

. Together with Joseph Proust
Joseph Proust
Joseph Louis Proust was a French chemist.-Life:Joseph L. Proust was born on September 26, 1754 in Angers, France. His father served as an apothecary in Angers. Joseph studied chemistry in his father’s shop and later came to Paris where he gained the appointment of apothecary in chief to the...

, the balloon flew north at an altitude of approximately 3,000 metres, above the clouds. They travelled 52 km in 45 minutes before cold and turbulence forced them to descend past Luzarches
Luzarches
Luzarches is a commune in the Val-d'Oise department in Île-de-France in northern France.-References:** -External links:* * *...

, between Coye et Orry-la-Ville
Orry-la-Ville
Orry-la-Ville is a town in northern France. It is designated municipally as a commune within the département of Oise.-References:*...

, near the Chantilly forest
Chantilly Forest
Chantilly Forest or Forest of Chantilly is a forest of , located mainly in the Oise, north of Paris....

. They set records for speed, altitude and distance travelled.

Final flight


De Rozier's next plan was an attempt to cross the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 from France to England. A Montgolfier balloon would not be up to the task, requiring large stocks of fuel for the hot air, so his balloon the Rozière balloon
Rozière balloon
The Rozière balloon is a type of hybrid balloon that has separate chambers for a non-heated lifting gas as well as a heated lifting gas...

 was a combination hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 and hot air balloon
Hot air balloon
The hot air balloon is the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology. It is in a class of aircraft known as balloon aircraft. On November 21, 1783, in Paris, France, the first untethered manned flight was made by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes in a hot air...

. It was prepared in the autumn of 1784, but the attempt was not launched until after another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Blanchard
Jean-Pierre Blanchard
Jean-Pierre Blanchard , aka Jean Pierre François Blanchard, was a French inventor, most remembered as a pioneer in aviation and ballooning....

, and American companion, Dr John Jeffries
John Jeffries
John Jeffries was a Boston physician, scientist, and a military surgeon with the British Army in Nova Scotia and New York during the American Revolution. Born in Boston, Jeffries graduated from Harvard College and obtained his medical degree at the University of Aberdeen...

, flew across the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 in a hydrogen gas balloon on 7 January 1785, from England to France.

Despite several attempts, De Rozier and his companion, Pierre Romain, were not able to set off from Boulogne-sur-Mer
Boulogne-sur-Mer
-Road:* Metropolitan bus services are operated by the TCRB* Coach services to Calais and Dunkerque* A16 motorway-Rail:* The main railway station is Gare de Boulogne-Ville and located in the south of the city....

 until 15 June 1785. After making some progress, a change of wind direction pushed them back to land some 5 km from their starting point. The balloon suddenly deflated (without the envelope catching fire) and crashed near Wimereux
Wimereux
Wimereux is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Wimereux is a coastal town situated some north of Boulogne, at the junction of the D233 and the D940 roads, on the banks of the river Wimereux. The river Slack forms the northern boundary of...

 in the Pas-de-Calais, from an estimated height of 1,500 feet. Both occupants were killed. Eight days later his former fiancée died, possibly having committed suicide. A commemorative obelisk was later erected at the site of the crash. The King had a medal struck, and gave his family a pension.

The modern hybrid gas and hot air balloon is named the Rozière balloon
Rozière balloon
The Rozière balloon is a type of hybrid balloon that has separate chambers for a non-heated lifting gas as well as a heated lifting gas...

 after his pioneering design.

Further reading

  • Wonderful Balloon Ascents, Part 2, Chapter 10 (1870) by Camille Flammarion
    Camille Flammarion
    Nicolas Camille Flammarion was a French astronomer and author. He was a prolific author of more than fifty titles, including popular science works about astronomy, several notable early science fiction novels, and several works about Spiritism and related topics. He also published the magazine...

     has an account of Rozier's final flight.

External links