Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Passarola, 1709

Brazilian Jesuit priest, linguist and mathematician, Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmão might have demonstrated to King João V of Portugal in 1709 that a device heavier than air could fly. Supposedly he floated a paper balloon construction indoors by means of a small fire in a clay crucible. There is only slim support for the notion that he successfully flew a bird-like 'balloon' some 60 or 70 years prior to the Montgolfier brothers of France however. It is also suggested that Gusmão's papers with substantiating evidence were destroyed during the Inquisition. Various forms of the Passarola (portuguese for flying ship) have appeared in print over the years. It's the stuff of patriotic legend.

The image above is from the 2-page MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections: Balloon Prints from the Vail Collection.

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