WTF Fun Fact 13284 – The Invention of Balloons

The invention of balloons goes back over 1000 years. But modern balloons didn’t come about until the 19th century.

The first balloons were made from animal bladders. People would use the bladders of animals – such as pigs, cows, and goats – to create primitive balloons for games or decor.

Ancient inflatables

The first recorded use of animal bladder balloons was in ancient China during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD). It is said that the balloons were used by courtiers to play a game called “Lantern at Night” where they would try to keep the balloon in the air for as long as possible using only their feet.

In Europe during the Middle Ages, animal bladder balloons were popular toys for children. They would often be filled with air and decorated with drawings or painted designs.

Animal bladder balloons were not only used for entertainment purposes, but also had practical applications. For example, in the 18th century, French doctors used pig bladder balloons to perform bladder surgeries.

In ancient Mesoamerica, animal bladder balloons were used for spiritual and religious purposes. They were a symbol of the “breath of life.”

As you might imagine, the durability of animal bladder balloons was very limited. These primitive balloons would often burst or deflate quickly. It wasn’t until the invention of rubber balloons that inflatables became more durable and could hold their shape for long periods of time.

The invention of modern balloons

In 1824, English scientist Michael Faraday discovered that he could use rubber to make a balloon that would retain its shape for longer periods.

This discovery paved the way for the balloons we use today. However, today’s balloons are typically made from materials like latex or Mylar. These are obviously longer-lasting materials than rubber or animal bladders.

Of course, balloons are now known to have many negative effects on the environment. When released into the air, they often end up in the water, where they harm marine life.

Additionally, standard balloons can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Despite these concerns, balloons continue to be a popular decoration for birthday parties and weddings to parades. In the near future, there are likely to be more biodegradable choices for balloon materials.

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Source: “Balloons” — Science World


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