Flying over Lisbon

Bartolomeu Gusmão, a priest born in Brazil in 1685, was probably the first human to fly. On August 8, 1709, in the presence of King John V and his court, Gusmão soared four meters above the ground, held by a paper balloon full of hot air.

This moment of triumph was followed by years of failure and disappointment. Gusmão worked tirelessly on an airship called Passarola. He planned to fly it over Lisbon, but his invention never left the ground. Gusmão’s contemporaries considered him a fool for thinking that a heavy machine could fly. What would they say if they saw us land in Lisbon aboard a modern version of the Passarola?