Science Feels Sexy in The Age of Wonder

Evoking an era when science was both glamorous and dangerous, The Age of Wonder is the most fascinating book of the year

Illustration by Lou Beach for TIME

The world's first manned balloon flight took place on Nov. 21, 1783, in Paris. The balloon was blue and gold and 70 ft. (about 20 m) tall. It had no basket. You rode on a kind of circular balcony that hung around the balloon's neck like a collar. This meant that there had to be two passengers, for balance, and they had to stay on opposite sides of the balloon at all times. The two men in question were Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, a young doctor who was exactly as dashing as he sounds, and the Marquis d'Arlandes, an army major....

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