In his most recent book, Falling Upwards: How We Took To The Air, biographer Richard Holmes tells the stories of the "first aeronauts," the men and women in Europe and America who pioneered the science and art of ballooning in the 18th and 19th centuries. The paperback edition of his "unconventional history of ballooning" was published last year by Vintage Books.
Richard Holmes is best known for his award-winning books about the Romantic Period, including The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, as well as biographies of Coleridge and Shelley. Holmes says that the early balloonists were working with the same kind of imagination as the Romantic poets.
In this more complete version of the interview, Richard Holmes talks about American Ambassador Benjamin Franklin's excited responses to the first balloon flights in Paris and how, seventy years later, balloons were used for reconnaissance in the American Civil War.