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Jean Baptiste Marie Meusnier

Born on June 19 1754, at Tours, France, Jean Baptiste Marie Meusnier was a French aeronautical theorist and military general. He was the first to envision an elongated airship in place of the spherical balloon. He conceived the elliptical-shaped airship in 1784, soon after the first flights of the Montgolfiers' balloons. He proposed the use of three propellers for propulsion that would be driven by the manual power of eighty men. His "ballonet" consisted of a smaller bag inside a larger one. Its inflation or deflation would control the altitude of the airship. His design included horizontal fins for stability and a triangular suspension system for the car. Henri Giffard adopted much of Meusnier's design in his first successful powered airship.

Meusnier was severely wounded during a battle between the French and Prussians and died on June 13, 1793.

Jean Baptiste Meusnier·s proposed dirigible, 1784.
Jean Baptiste Meusnier's proposed dirigible, 1784.

Credits - © 2001 National Air and Space Museum,
Smithsonian Institution (NASM Videodisc No. 2B-19053)