What does Occam’s (also Ockham’s) Razor have to do with the history of Hot Air Balloons? Nothing really. Franciscan friar, William of Ockham was an influential 14th Century English logician whose basic principle was the “Law of Economy.” That is, keep it simple, with the fewest assumptions, postulates and entities, when answering a question. Thus, if you clicked on this page to learn the history of hot air ballooning, you want it short and sweet, not a 10-page dissertation.
Ever see a large ash float up the chimney from a roaring fire or a piece of paper float away from the bonfire you tried to throw it into? That’s how the idea for hot air ballooning was born two centuries after Ockham, when two French brothers first experimented by filling a small silk bag with smoke in 1783. On September, 19, 1783, the first hot air balloon, 'Aerostat Reveillon,' was launched with passengers: a sheep, a duck and a rooster; it stayed aloft for 15 minutes before crashing. The first manned balloon launch, made from the center of Paris, was on November 21, 1783, with a balloon made by the 2 French brothers noted earlier; the manned flight flew for 20 minutes and the rest, as they say, is history. In 1785, another Frenchman, Jean Pierre Blanchard and his American co pilot, John Jefferies, became the first to fly across the English Channel. And ballooning came to America on January 7, 1793 when Blanchard (again) was the first to fly a hot air balloon in North America, with George Washington in attendance to watch the balloon launch!!
If you are interested in learning more about milestones in the history of hot air balloons, seeing cool pictures of old balloons. learning how burners work, or what baskets look like and how they are constructed, just Google these questions or go to www.eballoon.org as a starting point.
Hot air balloons stimulate the senses visually with their grace, colors and grandeur, and physically when you become one with the wind as a passenger. Balloon festivals are truly family affairs with their numerous attendant events and activities (regional foods, music, booths, glows, mass ascensions, to mention only a few!) that provide awe and inspiration for everyone.