Nadar's barrier


Although Felix Tournachon, pseudonym Nadar, is most famous for the photos he took of celebrities of his time, notably those of Sarah Bernard, Charles Baudelaire, Gérard de Nerval and Victor Hugo among many others, he also excelled in other disciplines. He was a man of many talents: a journalist, caricaturist, literary scholar, inventor, and lastly an aeronaut, which is what interests us here.

In 1863 he wrote a book on aerial locomotion, in which he advocates the development of "heavier-than-air” machines, although he was the designer of several balloons and the airship “Le Géant (The Giant)”. In order to raise funds to finance his experiments he built this enormous balloon, 40 metres high and containing 6,000m³ of gas. Le Géant had already flown twice in the Parisian sky and once over Amsterdam during its fourth ascent, which took place in Brussels on 26 September 1864 at the Porte de Schaerbeek, near the Botanic Garden. Since it was extremely dangerous to get too close to the balloon, and because the crowd was at times hard to control, a perimeter was established around the balloon using mobile barriers. The next day, the Brussels press was already talking of 'Nadar barriers'. As had happened with previous flights, Nadar's Le Géant did not leave for Austria or Turkey, as he had hoped, but instead landed the next night between the city of Ypres and the North Sea.  Despite the ensuing fiasco, his name remains associated with these crowd control barriers. Today, the term is still considered a belgicism.