What’s in it for me? Take a breath of that high, clear air and be inspired.

These days, it’s not unusual for people to board an airplane and take to the sky. The food may be bland and the legroom limited, but flying from one place to another is otherwise pretty uncomplicated.

However, humanity’s first experiments with flight were more than complicated; they were life-threatening. Balloons and balloonist were on the cutting edge. It was the early days of modern scientific discovery, and the voyages of these captains of the skies often resulted in death.

The history of ballooning is an inspiring one. Sure, these days you’re more likely to associate hot-air balloons with the Pixar movie Up or with slightly eccentric hobbyists than with real adventure or feats of daring. But in their heyday, balloons weren’t just inspirational in the abstract; they really impacted the world around them.

It’s even more incredible when you consider that the basics of balloon technology not only gave rise to new forms of literature, but enabled people to escape totalitarian regimes in the twentieth century. These blinks will help you find inspiration in a technology that has long been dismissed as irrelevant.

You’ll also learn

  • why you should name your balloon after an English queen;
  • which earthbound mode of transport killed off ballooning; and
  • what kind of hat to wear if you want to look like a nineteenth-century balloonist.