1840-1849 Master Index 1860-1869

1850-1859 Chronology of Aviation History
Major Aviation Events

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  • 1852 (London, England) — James Nye publishes Thoughts on Aerial Travelling, which includes a design for a 337-foot balloon powered by rockets. [1]

  • 24 September 1852 (Paris, France) — Giffard covers 17 miles in first semi-controlled powered flight. — In an extraordinary and successful demonstration today, Frenchman Henri Giffard made the first piloted powered flight, also involving some ability to steer. Rising from the Paris-Hippodrome, he flew 17 miles to Trappes. His cigar-shaped airship is about 144-feet in length and 39-feet in diameter at the center, with a gas volume of 80,300 ft³. The open car is suspended below a keel, itself attached to the envelope by ropes. The car carries both the pilot and the 3-hp steam engine, which powers the craft. A cloth rudder is attached above the keel, offering some control. The average speed today was 5-mph. [1]

  • 1852 (Paris, France) — Formation of the first society for promoting aerial navigation (Société Aérostatique et Météorologique de France). [3]


  • June/July 1853 (Yorkshire, England) — Man flies in a heavier-than-air craft — A human has flown in a heavier-than-air machine. This summer, a coachman of Sir George Cayley flew across a valley at Sir George's home in Brompton Hall, near Scarborough, in a glider built to his master's design. When he got out he gave in his notice. “I was hired to drive, not to fly,” he shouted.

    What distinguishes Cayley from a host of the eccentric aerial experimenters is his grasp of aerodynamics, shown in a silver disc he engraved in 1799. On one side of the disc, he sketched a diagram of the physical forces acting on a wing and on the other an airplane - complete with fuselage, elevator, tailplane, and rudder - powered by flapping panels. In 1804 he built a model glider with fixed wings and movable tail control surfaces, and also tested airfoils on a whirling-arm device, and in 1809 he built and flew the first ever successful full-size glider.

    His interest in flying rekindled by the recent strides of Hanson and others, he set to work building a triplane with a tail worked buy the occupant. He also he has also developed a tubular beam system of construction for aircraft. [1]


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  • 1855 — Joseph Pline is the first person to use the word “aeroplane” in a paper proposing a gas filled dirigible glider with propellers. [3]

December 1856

  • December 1856 (Sainte-Anne-la-Palud, France)— French Captain Jean Marie Le Bris flies 600 ft in his Artificial Albatross glider. Jean-Marie Le Bris (1817-1872) was a French aviator, born in Concarneau, Brittany, who accomplished a glider flight in December 1856. A sailor and sea captain, Jean-Marie Le Bris sailed around the world observing the flight of the Albatross bird. Although he sailed around the world, his true ambition was to fly. He caught some of the birds and analyzed the interaction of their wings with air, identifying the aerodynamic phenomenon of lift, which he called “aspiration”.

    Le Bris built a glider, inspired by the shape of the Albatross bird and named it L'Albatros artificiel (“The artificial Albatross”). During 1856 he flew briefly on the beach of Sainte-Anne-la-Palud (Plonévez-Porzay, Finistère), by being pulled by a running horse, facing towards the wind so that people can not say he flew using the wind. He thus flew higher than his point of departure, a first for heavier-than-air flying machines, reportedly to a height of 100 m (330 ft), for a distance of 200 m (660 ft).

    In 1868, with the support of the French Navy, he built a second flying machine, which he tried three times in Brest without great success. It was almost identical to his first flying machine, except that it was lighter and had a system to shift weight distribution. His flying machine became the first ever to be photographed, albeit on the ground, by Nadar in 1868, although the first well-documented glider was built by George Cayley and flown by an employee during 1853. Also in Great Britain, Stringfellow had built small unmanned gliders during 1848. However Le Bris invented more effective flight controls, which could act on the incidence of wings and which were patented during March 1857. [4]


  • March 1957 (Brittany, France)— Jean-Marie Le Bris crashes while attempting to fly a glider of his own design. The machine is destroyed and Le Bris is injured. [1]

  • 1857 (France) — Félix Du Temple flies clockwork and steam-powered model aircraft, the first sustained powered flights by heavier-than-air machines. Félix du Temple de la Croix (1823-1890) (usually simply called Félix du Temple) was a French naval officer and an inventor, born into an ancient Normandy family. He developed some of the first flying machines. He is credited with the first successful flight of a powered aircraft of any sort, a powered model plane, in 1857. He is sometimes also credited with the first manned powered flight in history onboard his Monoplane in 1874, twenty-nine years before the 1903 flight of the Wright brothers. He was a contemporary of Jean-Marie Le Bris, another French flight pioneer who was active in the same region of France.

    Félix du Temple accomplished the first successful flight of a powered aircraft of any sort, a model plane that was able to take-off under its own power, in 1857. There are however competing claims for the first “assisted” powered flight, with John Stringfellow's experiments in 1848. [5]

  • 1857 (France) — French brothers du Temple de la Croix apply after successful attempts with models for a patent for a power-driven aeroplane. Félix du Temple patented the designs for his aerial machine in 1857, which incorporated a retractable wheel landing gear, a propeller, a 6-hp engine and a dihedral wing design, under the title “Locomotion aérienne par imitation du vol des oiseaux” ( “Aerial locomotion by imitation of the flight of birds ”). He built several large models together with his brother Luis. One of them, weighing 700 grams, was able to fly, first using a clockwork mechanism as an engine, and then using a miniature steam engine. The two brothers managed to make the models take off under their own power, fly a short distance and land safely. [5]


  • 1 February 1858 (Melbourne, Australia) — Englishman William Dean makes the first balloon ascent in Australia, flying the Australian for about seven miles over Melbourne. [1]

  • 1858 (France) — French airman Nadar takes the first aerial photographs. Félix Nadar was the pseudonym of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820-1910), a French photographer, caricaturist, journalist, novelist and balloonist. Some photographs by Nadar are marked “P. Nadar” for Photographie Nadar." Nadar was born in April 1820 in Paris. He was a caricaturist for Le Charivari in 1848. In 1849 he created the Revue comique and the Petit journal pour rire. He took his first photographs in 1853 and in 1858 became the first person to take aerial photographs. He also pioneered the use of artificial lighting in photography, working in the catacombs of Paris.

    Around 1863, Nadar built a huge (6000 m³) balloon named Le Géant ("The Giant"), thereby inspiring Jules Verne's Five Weeks in a Balloon. Although the Géant project was initially unsuccessful, Nadar was still convinced that the future belonged to heavier-than-air machines. Later, “The Society for the Encouragement of Aerial Locomotion by Means of Heavier than Air Machines” was established, with Nadar as president and Verne as secretary. Nadar was also the inspiration for the character of Michael Ardan in Verne's From the Earth to the Moon.

    On his visit to Brussels with the Géant, on 26 September 1864, Nadar erected mobile barriers to keep the crowd at a safe distance. Up to this day, crowd control barriers are known in Belgium as Nadar barriers.

    In April 1874, he lent his photo studio to a group of painters, thus making the first exhibition of the Impressionists possible. He photographed Victor Hugo on his death-bed in 1885. He is credited with having published (in 1886) the first photo-interview (of famous chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, then a centenarian), and also took erotic photographs. From 1895 until his return to Paris in 1909, the Nadar photo studio was in Marseilles (France). Nadar died in 1910, aged 89. He was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. [6]


  • 1-2 July 1859 (Henderson, New York) — Four Americans fly a record 800 miles — Four Americans, balloonist John Wise, balloon builder John La Mountain, Vermont businessman O.A. Gager and St. Louis journalist William Hyde, have set a new world distance record for a flight by a gas-filled balloon. They landed in Henderson, New York, 20 hours and 40 minutes after taking off from St. Louis, Missouri, having covered an estimated 809 miles.

    The 120-foot high and 60-foot diameter balloon Atlantic carried a wooden life boat slung beneath its basket, 1,000-lb of sand ballast, a sack of express mail and copious supplies of food and drink. John Wise was the only man to ride in the wicker car, while the others cramped in to the lifeboat. A violent storm over the Great Lakes threatened to bring the balloon down as it crossed Lake Ontario. The passengers climbed hurriedly into the wicker car, and John Wise jettisoned the lifeboat, the sack of mail, all his ballast and anything else he could find. They finally made it to land, coming down in a tree. [2,8]

  • 16 August 1859 (Lafayette, Indiana)— American balloonist John Wise made the first flight of local airmail in the U.S. from Lafayette, Indiana to Crawfordsville, Indiana in a Balloon named The Jupiter carrying 123 letters and 23 circulars of which one cover was discovered in 1957. His trip of 25 miles ended when he was forced to land by lack of buoyancy. [2,3,5]

Works Cited

  1. Gunston, Bill, et al. Chronicle of Aviation. Liberty, Missouri: JL Publishing Inc., 1992. 14-17
  2. Parrish, Wayne W. (Publisher). "United States Chronology". 1962 Aerospace Yearbook, Forty-Third Annual Edition. Washington, DC: American Aviation Publications, Inc., 1962, 446-469.
  3. Wikipedia, Timeline of Aviation — 19th Century
  4. Wikipedia, Jean-Marie Le Bris
  5. Wikipedia, Félix du Temple de la Croix
  6. Wikipedia, Nadar (photographer)
  7. Shupek, John (photos and card images), The Skytamer Archive., Whittier, CA
  8. Wikipedia, John Wise (balloonist)

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