The toy balloon owes its invention to Michael Faraday who used balloons to store gases produced in his chemical experiments in 1824.
On 4 June 1784, the opera singer Madame Elisabeth Thible became the first woman to fly in a Montgolfier balloon. King Gustave III of Sweden was among those in Lyon watching and the balloon was given the name Gustave in his honour. Madame Thible was accompanied by Monsieur Fleurant after whom the balloon was named Le Fleurant. As soon as the balloon took off, they sang two operatic duets together.
The first living creatures to fly in a hot-air balloon were a sheep, a cockerel and a duck, sent aloft by the Mongolfier brothers in September 1783. All survived the flight, but the cockerel broke a wing, probably the result of its being kicked by the sheep.
The first recorded manned flight was made two months later by Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes. The balloon caught fire but both were unharmed.
Another pioneer balloonist who narrowly avoided disaster was Jacques Charles, who also made a flight from Paris in 1783. When he drifted low over fields, his balloon was attacked by farmers who thought he must be the Devil. He placated them with champagne.
In 1808, two men called de Grandpré and le Pique had a duel from balloons after a dispute over a woman. Le Pique's balloon was shot and he crashed to his death.
Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard became the first people to fly round the world in a balloon in 1999. It took them 19 days, 12 hours and 47 minutes.
The US publisher Malcolm Forbes owns a collection of oddly shaped hot-air balloons, including one shaped like a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and another in the shape of a bust of Beethoven.