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The first (documented) hot-air balloon was made in the late 18th century.

The materials necessary (wood to burn, sheets for balloon) were around for thousands of years.

Why didn't anyone think of this invention earlier?

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    $\begingroup$ The Chinese knew about this on a small scale (Google the term sky lanterns), which was long before the 18th century. $\endgroup$
    – KCd
    Jan 12, 2015 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ I think there actually is quite a bit of controversy over this and if indeed someone proves that indeed humans made ascents even in ancient times (although how this could be discovered) it would to me be less surprising than the fact the distance to the sun and the circumference of the Earth was calculated to fair accuracy -- I think those and some other ancient inventiveness are more complex than scaling up a paper balloon. If Archimedes had claimed this or Hero of Alexandria, who would completely doubt it? $\endgroup$
    – releseabe
    Nov 29, 2022 at 7:17

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Hot air balloons that can carry people require very large amounts of fabric. They were first created a few decades after the "flying shuttle" made it possible for a single weaver to weave cloth wider than the weaver's arms -- and then made mechanized looms possible. On the shuttle and the looms see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loom

The hugely increased availability of fabric has to be one reason the balloons were first made at that time.

I am assuming hot air balloons were not used to create the Nazca Lines in Peru 1500 years ago.

Related issue: parachutes were clearly conceived centuries before hot air balloons carried people, and probably some were actually used in jumps from high places. But their well documented use and modern development began when people used them with hot air balloons. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parachute

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