The first observation balloon was launched immediately before the first manned balloon flight by Frenchmen Jean-François de Rozier and Marquis d’Aalandes on November 21 (1783), for a pre-flight wind reading. One of the earliest documented uses of weather balloons was by French meteorologist called Leon Teisserenc de Bort. He was actively launching weather balloons as early as 1896. His work was instrumental in determining the existence of the tropopause and the stratosphere.
Since the 1930s, when radio tracking systems were invented, balloons have been used as complete floating weather stations, employing instruments such as thermometers, barometers, hygrometers, cameras, and telescopes. As an example, James Van Allen, who would later discover our Earth’s Van Allen Belts, also performed many crucial weather balloon experiments in the 1950’s.
Since the invention and beginning of the usage of elongated bags of helium, they have been carrying aloft increasingly sophisticated observation devices, taking the science of weather observation literally to the edges of outer space and commonly used in advanced atmospheric research and monitoring.