Jean-Pierre Blanchard’s prominent role in the history of ballooning made him the first true professional aeronaut in a period having many more or (most often) less pure amateurs.
He was born to poor parents in Les Andelys, Normandy, France, on July 4, 1753. What he lacked in formal education he made up for in creativity. As a youth he displayed a bent for mechanics and an interest in science, inventing a rat trap with a pistol, a velocipede, and later a hydraulic pump system that raised water 400 feet (122 meters) from the Seine River to the Chateau Gaillard. In 1769 he invented a crude bicycle.
In the 1770s his attraction to the problems of flight led to his work on designing heavier-than-air flying machines. His bird-like aerial bicycle with flapping wings—a pedal-powered flying machine that never flew—was based on a theory of propulsion by rowing in the air currents with oars and a tiller. He also unsuccessfully attempted to develop a manually powered airplane and helicopter.
The balloon achievements of Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier inspired Blanchard. On November 21, in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, the brothers launched a 70-foot high balloon carrying Jean Francois Piltre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Artandes.
This first manned untethered balloon flight initiated (to continue reading this story click on: BLANCHARD: THE FIRST PROFESSIONAL AERONAUT or http://beanerywriters.wordpress.com/2008/03/01/blanchard-the-first-professional-aeronaut/ )