Falling Upwards Book Summary By Richard Holmes

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Falling Upwards (2014) by Richard Holmes is an exploration of the surprisingly rich history of hot-air balloons.

This book takes readers through the earliest successful attempts at human flight and sheds light on the secret world of balloonists during the golden age of ballooning.

It delves into military ventures, escape plots, and much more that have all been largely overlooked by history books.

But it’s not just about stories—the book also touches upon the literature inspired by these brave adventurers who risked their lives to take to the sky in balloons.

An entertaining and educational read, Falling Upwards is sure to fill you with delight while teaching you something new.

Falling Upwards Book

Book Name: Falling Upwards (How We Took to The Air)

Author(s): Richard Holmes

Rating: 3.8/5

Reading Time: 19 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Richard Holmes is an award-winning author, having written a number of acclaimed biographies, such as the life of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his most famous nonfiction book The Age of Wonder: a fascinating account detailing the incredible scientific development that occurred at the end of the eighteenth century.

He has received numerous awards for his work, including prestigious literary prizes in recognition of his thought-provoking insights and engaging prose style.

So it's no surprise that Falling Upwards - Holmes' latest offering - has been warmly received by critics and readers alike.

Explore The Inspirational History Of Balloons And Balloonists

Balloons And Balloonists

Reading Falling Upwards is sure to be an exhilarating experience.

The history of ballooning has been a long and inspiring one, beginning with the risky experiments that took place in its early days as people made incredible discoveries through their flights into the sky.

Back in their heyday, balloons weren’t just seen as inspirational stories but had practical applications like being able to escape oppressive governments in the twentieth century.

So take a deep breath of that high, clear air and be inspired by these amazing stories of human innovation and daring.

Read about how naming your balloon after an English queen became a thing, why earthbound transport replaced it, and what kind of hat you should wear if you want to look like a 19th-century balloonist.

Falling Upwards gives you plenty of room for inspiration!

Risky Ballooning: The Thrill And Danger Of Adventure In The Skies

Ballooning is not for the faint of heart.

There’s an undeniable risk that comes with riding a hot-air balloon, and even in modern times it can be life threatening.

Just ask Father Adelir Antonio de Carli, who attempted to fly across Brazil in 2008 to raise money for charity.

Sadly, his attempt ended in disaster when his GPS navigator failed and he lost radio contact, resulting in him being swept away by the wind and later found 100 kilometers off the Brazilian coast.

It was a risk Major John Money also faced when in 1875 he attempted to complete a similar charity flight in England.

His launch was successful; however, his plans were changed when gusts of wind pulled his balloon out to sea leading him on a risky rescue mission as well.

Luckily, he managed to survive by cutting off the weighty basket and hoisting himself into the balloon hoop until he was saved hours later.

These two stories prove that people shouldn’t take launching a hot-air balloon lightly – because it can be incredibly dangerous!

The Courage Of Two Families: How A Hot-Air Balloon Helped Them Escape To Freedom

In Peter Strelzyk and Günter Wetzel’s case, multiple attempts were needed when they attempted to use a hot-air balloon to make an escape from East Germany in 1978.

After a few unsuccessful tries, Wetzel resigned himself to failure.

But Strelzyk kept going and finally, on July 4th, 1979, their small balloon set off.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to take them all the way, as bad weather and lack of lift forced them back down too soon.

Undaunted by this setback, the two men joined forces once again in order to create an larger and more powerful balloon.

This time their efforts paid off; with four gas tanks providing power they were able to take off on September 16th, 1979 and eventually made it across the border into West Germany.

This daring escape story illustrates how balloons can be used for escaping – even if sometimes multiple attempts are necessary!

How Hot-Air Balloons Were Used As A Military Strategy In The 18Th Century

Military Strategy In The 18Th Century

The invention of hot-air balloons created a brief period of military glory.

Just 1783, Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent d’Arlandes piloting the first successful balloon over Paris was an impressive feat in and of itself.

However, it was the French who soon realized that their flying devices could also be used to gain advantages on the battlefield.

At the Battle of Fleurus in June 1794, Captain Charles Coutelle ascended his balloon above the battleground and quickly relayed crucial intelligence down to the French forces below.

This gave them a strategic edge, allowing them to trace enemy movements and positions with ease.

The French employed this same tactic at several subsequent battles and thus emerged victorious.

Stringing up hot-air balloons wasn’t without its problems though – if the winds were too strong they could prove impossible to tether down to the ground, plus transferring information from sky-high to the ground level had its challenges too.

Furthermore, it was basically an invitation for all projectiles fired from enemy troops – from pistols to cannons – as these floating objects acted as psychological weapons by appearing to watch every enemy soldier’s move from greater heights.

Despite its downsides, being a military balloonist held some glamour as well, since there was always an element of danger involved during these operations even though no perfect solution has been found yet for effective use of hot-air balloons on battlefields.

By the end of 19th century these floating marvels had lost their luster as airplanes took over their role in airborne tactical operations with far better results and greater efficiency.

Despite The Risk, Sophie Blanchard Dared To Take Flight And Soar Above Paris As A Balloon Pilot For Napoleon

In the early nineteenth century, Sophie Blanchard amazed and delighted crowds with her incredible ballooning antics.

Born in La Rochelle, France in 1778, she married the famous balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard who took her to the air for a journey that changed her life.

Once aloft, he realized just how talented and confident of a pilot she was and shared the news with others.

Soon enough, word reached Napoleon who commissioned Blanchard’s services for special events such as his son’s birth and subsequent baptism when she shot fireworks from her basket to celebrate.

Blanchard developed her own style for ballooning; utilizing a miniscule silver gondola without walls or support beside hers.

On top of this, she declared herself with a white dress topped off with an elaborate feathered bonnet – drawing attention to her remarkable vulnerability while up in the air.

Sadly it all came to an end in 1819 when Blanchard’s balloon caught fire and ended its longrunning showmanship above the Parisian cobblestones.

The Rise Of Recreational Ballooning In The Victorian Era Offers A Unique Perspective On Industrialized Societies

When the development of the railways became mainstream in the 1830s, ballooning was no longer a viable form of transportation.

The growth of railways put an end to that dream, as they offered robustness, revolutionary speed and dependability in contrast to balloons’ unpredictable nature.

Things took a different turn when it came to recreational ballooning – passengers could be taken larger balloons over cities with a more romantic and nostalgic air about them at a price.

This was only possible thanks to the increased availability and affordability of coal supporting the railway industry.

People began to enjoy a bird’s eye view of their hometowns from above and this triggered a fashion for recreational ballooning across Europe.

Despite its beauty, one could observe these urban landscapes from above that exposed an alarming lack of equality between those with money and those without.

From this perspective, it is evident how railroads relegated ballooning solely to recreational purposes.

“The Unparalleled Adventures Of One Hans Pfaall: The Birth Of Science Fiction”

Science Fiction

The romance of ballooning was a big part of why the modern era of science fiction began.

One of the greatest accomplishments in this area had to have been Charles Green’s successful crossing the English Channel via hot-air balloon.

This inspired many people and even started a trend for literature that reflected what could potentially be achieved through such a venture.

A great example is Edgar Allan Poe’s The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaall which was published in 1835.

In this story, it tells of a man who supposedly flew to the moon in a giant air balloon.

It goes into great detail and with realistic precision to describe how it was built, equipped, and eventually enabled him to complete his mission and meet creatures he encountered on the other side.

The importance of this book cannot be understated as it became not just one of the first works that used scientific facts within its fantastic stories, but was also seen as an early invention of what would later become modern science fiction genre.

The Astonishing Use Of Air Balloons To Defy Siege And Spread Hope During The Franco-Prussian War

In 1871, Paris was surrounded by Prussian forces and the outlook for the French seemed bleak.

However, there was one glimmer of hope; air balloons were sent out to communicate with France’s allies outside the city walls.

The first balloon mission was led by Jules Duruof, who was determined to evade the Prussian fire and make contact with his fellow countrymen.

Miraculously, he succeeded.

By cutting away ballast quickly and soaring above even rivers impassable to cavalry, Duruof managed to get his message out and break through the Prussian siege.

These daring maneuverings uplifted morale among the French citizens in Paris, as well as reestablishing communication with those outside of their city walls.

Although Paris ultimately lost the war, it held on much longer than anyone had originally predicted thanks to Jules Duruof’s successful air balloon flights.

The Rise Of Powered Flight And The Decline Of Ballooning In The 19Th Century

Ballooning In The 19Th Century

At the end of the nineteenth century, it was already obvious that technology had advanced at a rapid pace and powered flight would take off shortly.

For years prior, people had attempted to mimic bird’s flight by attaching wings to their arms and jumping off cliffs – alas, in vain.

It was only after scientists understood how wings formed that powered flight became possible.

Because birds’ wings were naturally concave, this meant that the top surface area of each wing was larger than that of the underside.

This created a natural buoyancy which enabled these mechanisms to lift even heavy objects like planes.

Additionally, humans could alter their flight path by changing the curvature of wings without relying much on wind vacillations.

It was right at this point that ballooning started declining; it was no match for powered flight both in efficiency and capability.

In time, it became merely a hobby confined to the wealthier sections of society where they indulged in balloon races and champagne parties in the sky – hence making it an outdated method compared to modern sports such as golf or yachting.

By the end of twentieth century even hobbyists had given up on ballooning and resorted back from powered flight as our main form of air travel; however, today it stands as a reminder to our early aspirations for aviation success.

Wrap Up

Falling Upwards is a fantastic book that focuses on the history of hot-air balloons, trying to demonstrate how they have fired the human imagination and been integral for human success in some areas.

From providing entertainment and helping citizens escape danger, to saving lives and even contributing to victories in battles, the importance of hot-air balloons in our world is undeniable and should never be forgotten.

In short, this book serves as a reminder of our long relationship with these beautiful structures and of what it took us to truly take to the skies.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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