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The Daredevil Life and Pyrotechnic Death of Sophie Blanchard

Before Amelia Earhart, before Blanche Stuart Scott, before Pancho Barnes, there was Sophie Blanchard, who took to the air long before there were airplanes. Blanchard was the first woman to fly, and was appointed France’s Chief Air Minister of Ballooning by Napoleon Bonapart.

Over the course of her high-flying career, Blanchard gained a massive fanbase nad pioneered new flight techniques. Her test flights resulted in multiple near-death experiences before she finally perished in a fatal blaze of glory in 1819. It was a dizzyingly eventful life of 41 years, and worth celebrating on Blanchard’s 237th birthday.

Despite how flagrantly Blanchard flirted with death her whole life, she was a shy, nervous person, terrified of loud noises and riding in carriages. But when she married the ambitious early ballooner Jean-Pierre Blanchard in 1804, she finally discovered her ideal habitat—the quiet bliss of high altitudes.

Yes, she also became the first woman to die from flying, ten years after her daredevil husband did. It was a spectacular, gruesome, and very public death, which you can read about at Motherboard. -via Digg

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