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Jean-Pierre Blanchard
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    (July 4, 1753-March 7, 1809)
    Born in Les Andelys, France
    Early balloonist
    With Dr. John Jeffries, made the first balloon crossing of the English Channel (January 7, 1785)
    Conducted the first balloon flight in North America (at Philadelphia, January 9, 1793)
    Also credited with the first balloon flights in Belgium, Holland, Germany and Poland
    Suffered a heart attack while ballooning and fell from the basket (February 20, 1808)
    Died of complications from his injuries a little over a year later
    He invented 'air oars' to steer a balloon against the wind. Unfortunately, they never worked.
    He tried to keep Dr. Jeffries -- who funded the voyage -- from crossing the Channel with him and sharing the glory.
    During the flight, their balloon developed a slow leak, forcing him and Jeffries to throw overboard all their ballast -- followed by the useless air oars, scientific instruments, their cargo, and most of their clothes.
    Despite receiving a pension from King Louis XVI, he was constantly in financial trouble due to mismanagement.
    He abandoned his first wife and four children to barnstorm around Europe.
    At one exhibition, he promised a man would parachute from a balloon and play a violin on the way down. When he jumped from only ten feet, getting off a handful of notes, the assembled crowd rioted.
    During his first ever flight, he was stabbed by a spectator trying to force his way onto the balloon.
    He performed one of his flights as part of the coronation ceremony for Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II (1791).
    He was responsible for a number of ballooning firsts.
    He gave the first public demonstration of a parachute (using a dog as the subject).
    He came up with the idea of using silk as a parachute material. (Earlier parachutes had been made of linen stretched over a wooden frame.)

Credit: C. Fishel

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