Defying Gravity and Monarchy

November 21, 1783. The garden at the Chateau de la Muette is full of expectant Parisians, looking up at the sky. They’re waiting to watch the first two human beings ever take free, untethered flight. After a gust of wind nearly derails the entire operation, some volunteer seamstresses help repair the 75 foot tall hot air balloon. Finally, two Frenchmen step into their wicker baskets and take off. This first human balloon flight is more than just a landmark in aviation history. For the crowds of huddled French masses looking up from below, it's a revolution in and of itself. How did two sons of a papermaker create the first successful aviation device in history? And how did the balloon come to symbolize the French Revolution? 

Special thanks to our guests, Tom Crouch, author of Lighter Than Air: An Illustrated History of Balloons and Airships, and Mi Gyung Kim, author of The Imagined Empire: Balloon Enlightenments in Revolutionary Europe.

See for privacy and opt-out information.