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Brown, Alphonse

Entry updated 7 October 2022. Tagged: Author.

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Working name of French author Joseph-Maxmilien-André Brown (1841-1902), whose first novel, La Conquête de l'air: 40 jours de navigation aérienne (1875; trans Brian Stableford as The Conquest of the Air: Forty Days of Aerial Navigation 2013) (see Transportation), was clearly modeled on the early novels of Jules Verne, and built upon the French fascination with directed flight, early experiments involving both Balloons and (essentially theoretical) heavier-than-air flight. A central impresario of the spectacle of flight was the photographer Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820-1910), who worked as Nadar, and who famously, if only symbolically, broke the Siege of Paris in 1870 with a balloon brigade, the Compagnie des Aérostiers, which delivered at least a million letters to the rest of the world. Nadar is mentioned in La Conquête de l'air, in which a heavier-than-air craft is meticulously described (though it retains bird-like flapping wings), as is the Vernean round-the-world tour that ensues, but takes, however, only forty days to make the transit.

In its happy advocacy of progress, La Conquête de l'air prefigures Brown's later Scientific Romances, "Les insectes revelateurs" ["The Instructive Insects"] (4 May-8 June 1889 La Science illustrée) and Un Ville de Verre (1 June-8 August 1890 La Science illustrée; 1891; trans Brian Stableford as City of Glass), whose close unmelodramatic adherence to Technologies just in advance of the already realized both dates them and lends them interest. City of Glass depicts with dogged assurance an expedition to the North Pole, during the course of which the French team, finding itself stranded on an Island made clement by volcanic action, builds a City of glass called Crystalopolis, where a brief Utopia is established before a ship made of glass takes them back home. [JC]

Joseph-Maximilien-André Brown

born Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, France: 1841

died possibly Bordeaux, France: June 1902

works (selected)


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