Gay-Lussac and Biot in Hot Air Balloon, 1804 - stock photo
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Gay-Lussac and Biot in Hot Air Balloon, 1804

Gay-Lussac in a daring 1804 balloon ascent to investigate terrestrial magnetism and the composition of air at high altitude. Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778-1850) was a French chemist and physicist known for his studies on the physical properties of gases. In 1804, Gay-Lussac and Jean-Baptiste Biot ascended to a height of approximately 13,000 feet to study variations in the Earth's electro-magnetic intensity relative to altitude. In a later solo ascent, he climbed to 23,000 feet (a record held for fifty years) and experienced the effects of oxygen deprivation but still managed to collect air samples, study the variation of pressure and temperature, and repeat his earlier electro-magnetic observations. He died in 1850 at the age of 71. Jean-Baptiste Biot (April 21, 1774 - February 3, 1862) was a French physicist, astronomer, and mathematician who established the reality of meteorites, made an early balloon flight, and studied the polarization of light. He lived to be 87 and died of natural causes.

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