Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier

Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, the first pionner in the air conquest
We know the Montgolfier brothers, Leonardo da Vinci, the Wright brothers, but quite less Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier (born in Metz, Lorraine – March 30th, 1754 – June 15th, 1785). However, he is the first man who had the courage to fly in the airs on board an astonishing machine, manufactured only a couple of months prior by Etienne and Joseph Montgolfier (two brothers from Annonay – Ardeche). After the first test without basket and passengers and then the complementary flight with animals, the King Louis XVI didn’t want to kill one of his subjects and wished to send convicts instead.

Pilâtre de Rozier, a freemason, friend of Benjamin Franklin, Lafayette and other decision makers, had just created a Sciences Museum in Paris. Surprised and interested, the King’s court accepted Jean-François’ project and gave him the possibility to be the first to fly. During several weeks, he modified and tested the balloon, then flew with the “Marquis d’ Arlandes” on November 21st, 1783. He carried out the first world record of distance, altitude and duration. His fame soon exceeded France and extended to the whole world. The Man achieved his dream: to fly in the air. Pilâtre de Rozier invented the first gas mask, the matches and many other inventions, but he continued his experiments in ballooning. He manufactured “La Rozière”, combination between a hot air balloon and a gas balloon (hydrogen) which had just been set up by the physicist Charles.

His 3rd flight would kill him. He intended to fly from France to England on June 15th, 1785, but the machine wasn’t ready. He died on the French coast with his unfortunate flight companion Pierre Ange Romain, crushed on the ground after a vertiginous fall. Physicist chemist, he was also the creator of a new museum (a kind of “Conservatory of Arts and Crafts). He was also the first air victim and the spiritual father of generations which have succeeded him on board these strange machines: hot air balloons, gas balloons and “Rozières”. Besides, it’s with a “rozière” that Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones accomplished a round the world tour in March 1999, so did Steve Fossett a few years later.