Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (aka Nadar)

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Brooklyn Museum - Nadar Élevant la Photographie à la Hauteur de l'Art - Honoré Daumier.jpg
Points of late 1850s and early 186os interest inclusive of Nadar note of quotation and publication

Nadar was an aero inventor, a painter and photographer, Paris (33, boulevard Saint-Martin, Seine). He was also a founder of the Society for Aerial Navigation (Provisional) and the Society for the Encouragement of Aerial Locomotion by Machines Heavier than Air.

As a child Nadar witnessed an aeronaut carried away in a ballooning mishap above the Champs-Élysées, an experience which, it is said, provoked him to contemplate heavier-than-air flight as the key to dirigibility in the air.[1]

Nadar commissioned the aeronautical services of the Godard family, first chartering a balloon and hiring them to operate it, then commissioning the construction of Le Géant in 1860.[2] With his heart set on heavier-than-air flight, he believed that his large balloon would draw attention and raise funds for his cause.[3]

At a public reading of his "Manifeste de l'Autolocomotion aérienne", given in 1863, he said, "To struggle against the air, one must be specifically heavier than it.".

His son, Paul Tournachon a.k.a. Paul Nadar went into the same line of work.

Patents whose inventor or applicant is Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (aka Nadar)

Publications by or about Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (aka Nadar)


  1. Begley, 2017, The Great Nadar, p. 124. "Felix's fixation was distinguished from the start by an urgent interest in the problem of how to steer an untethered, lighter-than-air balloon—that is, how to avoid the imagined fate of that aeronaut who had whisked over his eight- or nine-year-old head. Even before he made his first ascent (at the age of thirty-seven, at the Hippodrome, at the invitation of Eugène Godard's younger brother Louis), he's become convinced that only something heavier than air—such sa a bird—could navigate properly. He'd been only a few minutes in the basket, which had risen only a few yards, when he asked, "And you, do you believe in the possibility of steering your balloons?" Louis's succinct reply: 'Never!'"
  2. Gervais, 2001. Cites Dollfus & Bouché, 1932, Histoire de l'aéronautique.
  3. Begley, 2017, The Great Nadar, p. 138. "Why would a man dedicated to promoting heavier-than-air locomotion build a gigantic balloon—after calling for the abolition of all balloons? Because balloons draw crowds: the bigger the balloon, the bigger the crowd. Félix's idea was that the money raised by charging the public to witness the inflation and takeoff a balloon 'twenty times larger than the largest hitherto known' would fund the search for a practical motor to propel a helicopter, a motor powerful and light enough to allow for manual flight 'in our first true aerolocomotive.' A publicity stunt, Le Géant—'the last balloon,' as he liked to call it—was a strategic detour. As he put it, 'convinced of the impossibility of getting there by a straight line, I thought that a curved line could become, in the given case, the shortest path from one point to the other."


Names Nadar; Gaspard-Félix Tournachon
Birth date 1820-04-06
Death date 1910-03-21
Countries FR
Locations Paris
Occupations Photographer
Tech areas Heavier-than-air, Photography
Affiliations Société d'encouragement pour la locomotion aérienne au moyen d'appareils plus lourds que l'air
Wikidata id