Although there is evidence of some previous experiments in China, the first reference to hot air balloons is found in the XVIII century. These first steps in the history of aerostation weren’t given to the Montgolfier brothers, as is widely believed, but by the inventor and Jesuit priest Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmão. It is said the idea of an instrument lighter than the air came as he observed a soap bubble rising in the hot air surrounding a flame. He immediately perceived the possibilities of his idea and made a patent request to the king of Portugal, Juan V.
The first public demonstration, before the court, was made on August 8, 1709, at the India House in Lisbon. Bartolomeu managed to lift his aircraft about 4 meters before it set on fire. His invention was called Passarola. Later however, without receiving the proper acknowledgment, he was defamed by the inquisition, pursued and forced to run away.
He fled to Spain and died in Toledo due to a fever at the age of 39 years.
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