|Birth: ||Mar. 25, 1778|
Departement de la Charente-Maritime
|Death: ||Jul. 6, 1819|
City of Paris
Sophie Blanchard was a French aeronaut. The widow of ballooning pioneer Jean-Pierre Blanchard, she was the first woman to work as a professional balloonist. Though nervous on the ground, she was a fearless aeronaut and after her husband's death she continued ballooning, making more than 60 ascents. Known throughout Europe for her ballooning exploits, she entertained Napoleon Bonaparte, who promoted her to the role of "Aeronaut of the Official Festivals", replacing André-Jacques Garnerin. On the restoration of the monarchy in 1814 she performed for Louis XVIII, who named her "Official Aeronaut of the Restoration".
Ballooning was a risky business for the pioneers. Blanchard lost consciousness on a couple of occasions, endured freezing temperatures and almost drowned when her balloon crashed in a marsh. In 1819 she became the first woman to be killed in an aviation accident when, during an exhibition in the Tivoli Gardens in Paris, she launched fireworks that ignited the gas in her balloon. Her craft crashed on the roof of a house and she fell to her death.
The story of her death was recounted throughout Europe. Jules Verne mentioned her in Five Weeks in a Balloon and, in The Gambler, Fyodor Dostoevsky likened the thrill of committing oneself in gambling to the sensation that Blanchard must have felt as she fell. For others, her death proved a cautionary tale, either as an example of a woman exceeding her station (as with Grenville Mellen, who said that it proved "a woman in a balloon is either out of her element or too high in it") or as the price of vanity for attempting such spectacular shows. Charles Dickens commented "The jug goes often to the well, but is pretty sure to get cracked at last". With the advent of powered flight, ballooning and Blanchard's story were relegated to the margins of aviation history. A novel inspired by Blanchard's story, Linda Donn's The Little Balloonist, was published in 2006.
Cimetière du Père Lachaise
City of Paris
Created by: JP Fortin
Record added: Nov 18, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 22976929