Henri Giffard

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Henri Giffard (Henri-Jacques Giffard)(1825–1882) was an aero inventor in Paris (29, rue du Colisée, Seine) credited as a pioneer in the field of dirigibles. He was a trained engineer and wealthy.

Giffard balloon on display at 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris

In 1851 when he gained his first patent he was working for the railway company Compagnie du chemin de fer de Saint-Germain.[1]

He used the principle that the energy necessary for propulsion varied proportionate to the cube of desired speed.[1]

Giffard created a 144-foot airship with a balloon holding 2,500 cubic meters of gas. Its propeller, powered by a 3-horsepower engine, had 3 blades, 11 feet diameter, and rotated at 110 rpm. On 24 September 1852, Giffard piloted this vessel from the Paris Hippodrome to Elancourt [a distance of about 40 km = 25 mi]. Its speed was about 6 mph. This voyage is credited as the first mechanically powered flight. Giffard had earlier worked with Pierre Jullien, creator of a 23-foot clockwork vessel called le Précurseur, and with Dr. Le Berrier, who had flown a dirigible with oars.[2][3][4] An enormous crowd watched, from inside and outside the amphitheater.[1]

Giffard wanted to create an enormous (600 m length, 220,000 cubic meters volume) steam-powered airship but never found an investor. Instead he worked on tethered passenger balloon, including le Captif, which flew 35,000 people (up to 50 at a time) during the 1878 World's Fair in Paris.[2][5] He also exhibited at the 1867 International Exposition in Paris and in 1868 at London.[3]

He worked with Henri Dupuy de Lôme on military aeronautics during the Siege of Paris.[1]

He designed an injecteur, later called by some a giffard, for the steam engine.[1]

He lost his eyesight and took his own life using chloroform at age 57.[2]

(There are more patents than we presently have linked.)

It is reported that he was granted a patent for a steam injector on 8 May 1858.[6]

Patents whose inventor or applicant is Henri Giffard or Henry Giffard

  • Patent FR-1851-12226 (English title: application of steam to aerial propulsion and navigation, Filing date: 1851-08-20)
  • Patent FR-1855-Giffard (English title: Air travel systems, Filing date: 1855-07-06)
  • Patent FR-1866-74226 (English title: System of captive aerostats captifs, and arrangements and improvements brought to aerostats or balloons, Filing date: 1866-12-20)

Publications by or about Henri Giffard or Henry Giffard


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 de Fonvielle and Besançon, 1908, Notre flotte aérienne, p. 6–9.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hallion, 2003, p. 83
  3. 3.0 3.1 L'Aéronautique, 1922, pp. 34–35.
  4. Banet-Rivet, 1898, L'Aéronautique, p. 167.
  5. Also: "In 1878, Henry Giffard prepared nearly 900,000 cubic feet of gas in three days, using in the process 180 tons of sulphiric acid and 80 tons of iron turnings." Hildebrandt, 1908, Airships Past and Present, 177.
  6. w:Henri Giffard


Names Henri Giffard
Birth date 1825
Death date 1882
Countries FR
Occupations balloonist, balloon-maker
Tech areas LTA
Wikidata id Q370960