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History of Airships and Balloons

From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
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Background and Definitions: Airships and Balloons

Gordon Bennett International Balloon Race
Gordon Bennett International Balloon Race - 1907
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There are two kinds of floating lighter-than-air or LTA craft: the balloon and the airship. A balloon is an unpowered LTA craft that can lift. An airship is a powered LTA craft that can lift and then maneuver in any direction against the wind.


Balloons and airships lift because they are buoyant, meaning that the total weight of the airship or balloon is less than the weight of the air it displaces. The Greek philosopher Archimedes first established the basic principle of buoyancy.

Hot air balloons were first flown by the brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier as early as the spring of 1783. While the materials and technology are very different, the principles used by the earliest eighteenth-century experimenters continue to carry modern sport and weather balloons aloft.

Types of Airships

There are three types of airships: the nonrigid airship, often called a blimp; the semirigid airship, and the rigid airship, sometimes called a Zeppelin.
  1. Background and Definitions: Airships and Balloons
  2. First Flights - Hot Air Balloons and the Montgolfier Brothers
  3. Hydrogen Balloons - Jacques Charles
  4. Hydrogen Balloon with Flapping Devices - Jean Blanchard
  5. History of the Airship - Henri Giffard
  6. The Baldwin Dirigible
  7. The Zeppelin - Rigid Framed Airships - Ferdinand Zeppelin
  8. Resources - Montgolfier Balloon - Army Balloon
  9. Types of Airships - Nonrigid Airship and Semirigid Airship
  10. Types of Airships - Rigid Airship or Zeppelin

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