Dutch Aviaton Pioneers


by han nabben

In the eighties of the 18th century, the French Montgolfiër brothers executed experiments with launching paper-made balloons, filled with hot air. After several successful experiments with unmanned balloons and a balloon with animals in it, the two sons of paper manufacturer Pierre Mongofliër were ready for their master piece, the launch of the first manned balloon ever. On November 21, 1783 the two brothers Joseph Michel and Jacques Etienne launched their manned hot air balloon from the gardens of Chateau de la Muette in the Bois de Boulogne near Paris. Almost simultaneously, the French professor Jacques A.C. Charles launched the first manned gas balloon on December 1, 1783. After these spectacular ballooning-events, many pioneers in various countries tried to launch their own balloon by copying the new French inventions.

On November 27, 1783 a Dutch doctor from the city of Rotterdam, Johannes van Noorden, launched the first (unmanned) balloon in the Netherlands. In the first half of 1784, five books were written in Dutch about the balloon-invention. Johannes van Noorden wrote the first book, about his experiments in Rotterdam. A few months later, Helperus Ritzema van Lier – a friend of Johannes van Noorden – published in May 1784 his book titled: Verhandeling over het algemeen en byzonder gebruik der Aërostatische Machines en de verschynzelen die dezelven ons kunnen opleveren (Story about the use of aronautical devices and associated phenomenons)

The well educated Van Lier – born in Assen – explained in his book the working of hot air balloons and gas balloons, wrote about the benefit and danger of ballooning and explained the ballooning experiments executed in the city of Groningen by the gentlemen Modderman and Van Olst. Two years after Van Lier published his book on ballooning he moved – for the United Dutch East Asia Company (VOC) – to the Cape of Good Hope where he worked as a preacher and a teacher. Van Lier died in Cape Town in 1793.

This information was kindly provided by Mr Nabben from Van Lier´s early book on ballooning, published in 1784. Mr Nabben is from the Netherlands and was researching the history of Dutch aviation when he found the article about Van Lier’s grave on the NRA website.