(25 March 1778 - 6 July 1819) was a French aeronaut
and the wife of ballooning
pioneer Jean-Pierre Blanchard
. Blanchard was the first woman to work as a professional balloonist, and after her husband's death she continued ballooning, making more than 60 ascents. Known throughout Europe for her ballooning exploits, Blanchard entertained Napoleon Bonaparte
, who promoted her to the role of "Aeronaut of the Official Festivals", replacing André-Jacques Garnerin
. On the restoration
of the monarchy in 1814 she performed for Louis XVIII
, who named her "Official Aeronaut of the Restoration".
Ballooning was a risky business for the pioneers. Blanchard lost consciousness on a few occasions, endured freezing temperatures and almost drowned when her balloon crashed in a marsh. In 1819, she became the first woman to be killed in an aviation accident when, during an exhibition in the Tivoli Gardens in Paris, she launched fireworks that ignited the gas in her balloon. Her craft crashed on the roof of a house and she fell to her death. She is commonly referred to as Madame Blanchard and is also known by many combinations of her maiden and married names, including Madeleine-Sophie Blanchard, Marie Madeleine-Sophie Blanchard, Marie Sophie Armant and Madeleine-Sophie Armant Blanchard.