8. Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier was a French inventor who became the first person to die in an aviation accident
Ever since man first took to the skies, flying has been a risky business. While it may now be the safest form of travel, over the past 100 years, thousands of people have died in plane crashes. And a certain Frenchman called Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier was the first such fatality. The pioneering aviator died when his hot air balloon crashed during an attempted crossing of the English Channel. Dying alongside him was his compatriot and fellow inventor Pierre Romain – and the two of them went down in history as the first recorded flight fatalities in human history.
De Rozier made his attempted crossing of the sea between England and France in the summer of 1785. By that point, he had already carried out several successful trips in his hot air balloon. Most notably, he took to the skies in front of the French king. This alone made him a huge celebrity in his native country and inspired inventors around the world to come up with ways of flying increasingly longer distances. Despite his inglorious end, De Rozier is still credited with being one of the true fathers of manned flight. To this day, the modern hybrid gas and hot air balloon is named the Roziere balloon in his honor.