The Invention of the Bicycle: Closing in!

Presented by David Herlihy, author of “The Lost Cyclist”

Bicycle historians have long been puzzled by an early (1869) report by the British author Joseph Bottomley Firth concerning the origins of the bicycle. In 1863, he affirmed, a pioneer cyclist circled Paris’s Place de la Concorde, while a skilled roller skater, in turn, made circles around him. Although this credible affirmation contradicts what would become the official account, crediting Ernest and Pierre Michaux with the bicycle invention in 1861, it is entirely consistent with the testimony of the patentee Pierre Lallement (he gave 1863 as the year he built his first bicycle prototype in Paris, and he maintained that he took it on the boulevards where “all the people saw it.”) I will present fresh and compelling evidence that this curious “dance” between the cyclist and the skater did indeed take place in the Place de la Concorde during the year 1863. I will identify who the skater was, and argue that Lallement was, in all probability, the cyclist. I will then present the outlines of an entirely revamped history of the invention.

Sunday, November 5th, 1:30 PM, Seminar Room 123