Science Art: Mort de Harris (1824), from the Tissandier Collection at the Library of Congress.

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The Death of Harris, who jumped from a hydrogen balloon in 1824.

It was not a “perfectly good balloon,” as the sky divers put it – it was leaking, and he’d run out of ballast to eject in order to slow the balloon’s descent. So, to save his young fiancee’s life, he ejected himself.

Thomas Harris is primarily known for his spectacular death, but he’s also remembered as the guy who invented the gas-discharge valve, which is a device that gets gas out of balloons quickly so they don’t drag on the ground.

And yes, it was a stuck valve that the hydrogen was leaking out of. The perils of invention.

From a sheet of collecting cards with pictures of events in ballooning history from 1795 to 1846, part of the Library of Congress’ Tissandier Collection.

Found via this marvelous Flickr collection of public domain images.