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Early flight enthusiasts will find this an excellent companion volume to the recent Zeppelin Fighters by Arch Whitehouse (p.677). The present book is a history of non-powered balloon flight from the Montgolfier brothers in 1783 to the advent of the rigid, powered airship. The wonder of balloon flight is conveyed imaginatively by the text; there is an ecstasy, sense of power and overwhelming insight in the stated reactions of the balloanatics. Even today they are contemptuous of powered balloons, for it is only in the unguided balloon that the serenity of total surrender asserts itself, in ""a frail bladder of gas, unguidable, beautiful, comical, tragically ephemeral, a spherical microcosm of the great globe itself itself..."" The Montgolfier brothers were paper manufacturers and the implications of the recent discovery of hydrogen were not lost on them. They made some practice paper-and-cloth balloons, then had a public demonstration with a large balloon which they inflated with damp smoke. Successful, they announced a manned flight next and were thought mad. Soon, though, they proved themselves with a balloon anchored to a 300-ft. rope. A year later the first hydrogen ascent, ropeless over Paris, stirred a half-million observers to exaltation and weeping. Later aeronauts were more ill-fated, but all of these stories will stir your adrenals.

Publisher: Walker