The History of the Parachute

Drop into some historical Knowledge

Some history of the parachute from Wikipedia

The earliest evidence for the parachute dates back to the Renaissance period.[3] The oldest parachute design appears in an anonymous manuscript from 1470s Renaissance Italy (British Museum Add. MSS 34,113, fol. 200v), showing a free-hanging man clutching a cross bar frame attached to a conical canopy.[4] As a safety measure, four straps run from the ends of the rods to a waist belt. The design is a marked improvement over another folio (189v), which depicts a man trying to break the force of his fall by the means of two long cloth streamers fastened to two bars which he grips with his hands.[5] Although the surface area of the parachute design appears to be too small to offer effective resistance to the friction of the air and the wooden base-frame is superfluous and potentially harmful, the revolutionary character of the new concept is obvious.[5]

Only slightly later, a more sophisticated parachute was sketched by the polymath Leonardo da Vinci in his Codex Atlanticus (fol. 381v) dated to ca. 1485.[4] Here, the scale of the parachute is in a more favorable proportion to the weight of the jumper. Leonardo's canopy was held open by a square wooden frame, which alters the shape of the parachute from conical to pyramidal.[5] It is not known whether the Italian inventor was influenced by the earlier design, but he may have learned about the idea through the intensive oral communication among artist-engineers of the time.[6] The feasibility of Leonardo's pyramidal design was successfully tested in 2000 by Briton Adrian Nicholas and again in 2008 by Luigi Cani.[7] According to the historian of technology Lynn White, these conical and pyramidal designs, much more elaborate than early artistic jumps with rigid parasols in Asia, mark the origin of "the parachute as we know it."[3]

Fausto Veranzio's 1595 parachute design titled "Flying Man" or "the Man with an Angel's Blessing"

The Croatian inventor Fausto Veranzio (Faust Vrančić) (1551–1617) examined da Vinci's parachute sketch, and set out to implement one of his own. He kept the square frame, but replaced the canopy with a bulging sail-like piece of cloth that he came to realize decelerates the fall more effectively.[5] A now-famous depiction of a parachute that he dubbed Homo Volans (Flying Man), showing a man parachuting from a tower, presumably St Mark's Campanile in Venice, appeared in his book on mechanics, Machinae Novae (1615 or 1616), alongside a number of other devices and technical concepts.[8] It was widely believed that in 1617, Vrančić, then aged 65 and seriously ill, implemented his design and tested the parachute by jumping from St Mark's Campanile,[9] from a bridge nearby,[10] or from St Martin's Cathedral in Bratislava.[11][12] In various publications it was falsely claimed that the event was documented some thirty years later by John Wilkins, founder and secretary of the Royal Society in London in his book Mathematical Magick or, the Wonders that may be Performed by Mechanical Geometry, published in London in 1648.[10] However, in this book, John Wilkins wrote about flying, not about parachutes. He neither mentions Faust Vrančić nor a parachute jump nor any event in 1617, and doubts about this test along with no written evidence of its occurrence, lead to the conclusion that it never occurred, and was caused by a misreading of historical notes.[13]

According to other publications, the Chinese began parachuting as long ago as the 1100s, while modern skydiving began with Jacques Garnerin from France and his experiments and public demonstrations in 1797.[14][15]


History of the Parachute

Info on Parachutes from

Excerpt from Sandia Report SAND85-1180
"An Introduction to Deployable Recovery Systems"
by Jan Meyer
August 1985

The first known written account of a parachute concept is found in da Vinci's notebooks (cl495). The sketch he drew consisted of a cloth material pulled tightly over a rigid pyramidal structure. Although da Vinci never made the device, he is given credit for the concept of lowering man to the earth safely using a maximum drag decelerator.

Fauste Veranzio constructed a device similar to da Vinci's drawing and jumped from a tower in Venice in 1617. Over a century would pass before further developments would be made by the famous balloonists, Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier. In 1783 they succeeded in lowering animals to the ground from rooftops or balloons. During the same year Sebastian Lenormand jumped from a tower using a 14-foot diameter parachute. The first emergency use of a parachute was made by Jean Pierre Blanchard in 1785 after the hotair balloon he was in exploded. Blanchard also worked on a foldable silk parachute, for until then all parachutes were constructed with a rigid frame.

In 1797, Andrew Garnerin made the first jump with a parachute without a rigid frame. One of Garnerin's balloon jumps from 8000 feet, a very high altitude for the time, was observed by a French astronomer, Lalandes. As the parachute descended, severe oscillations were induced in the canopy. Lalandes suggested cutting a small hole near the apex of the canopy to inhibit the oscillations. This modification is now known as the vent and does indeed dramatically reduce canopy oscillations.

During the next century, parachute use was confined to carnivals and daredevil acts. Acrobats would perform stunts on a trapeze bar suspended from a descending parachute. The parachute was released from a hot-air balloon by attaching the top of the parachute to the equator of the balloon with a cord that broke after a person jumped from the basket. Public opinion became very unfavorable towards the use of parachutes when Robert Cocking fell to his death in 1837. Cocking jumped an inverted coneshaped parachute (point down) from 5000 ft. and distinguished himself by becoming parachuting's first fatality.

The next major contribution to parachute systems was the development of a harness by Captain Thomas Baldwin in 1887. The concept of folding or packing the parachute in a knapsak-like container was developed by Paul Letteman and Kathchen Paulus in 1890. Kathchen Paulus also demonstrated an intentional breakaway. After a first parachute inflated, it was released and pulled open a second parachute.

The first jump from an airplane has been claimed by both Grant Morton and Captain Albert Berry in 1911 or 1912. Morton jumped with a silk parachute folded in his arms which he threw out as he left the plane. Captain Berry had a 36 ft. parachute packed into a metal case beneath the fuselage. The parachute had a trapeze bar for him to hold on to as he jumped and descended to the ground. Also in 1911, an Italian, Pino, invented the pilot chute or drogue chute.' He attached a small parachute with a rigid frame to his helmet. The pilot chute would easily inflate, pull the helmet off and then pull the parachute out into the airstream.

The first freefall jump was made by Georgia "Tiny" Broadwick in 1914, but the military still did not believe that the human body could tolerate the experience of freefall for more than a few seconds before "blacking out." The skeptics were convinced in 1919 by Leslie Irvin and Floyd Smith. They demonstrated freefall jumps and developed the ripcord at the parachute testing and training center at Wright Field, established in 1918.

From World War I to the early 1930's, conventional round silk (now known as solid cloth) parachutes remained unchanged in structure. They were primarily used by military air corps in Europe, Russia, and the United States. During the 1930's Germany's Luftwaffe established the essential ingredients for air supremacy. Kurt Student conceived and implemented a rapid deployment strike force by parachuting men, equipment, and weapons from gliders and aircraft, such as the Junker JU52/3m. Germany demonstrated the effectiveness of airborne troops delivered to the battle scene by parachutes during World War II.

About.coms history of the parachute.

Credit for the invention of the first practical parachute frequently goes to Sebastien Lenormand who demonstrated the parachute principle in 1783. However, parachutes had been imagined and sketched by Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) centuries earlier.

Faust Vrancic - Homo Volans

Other early inventors designed parachutes, including Croatian Faust Vrancic who constructed a device based on Da Vinci's drawing. Faust Vrancic jumped from a Venice tower in 1617 wearing a rigid-framed parachute. Faust Vrancic published Machinae Novae, in which he describes in text and picture fifty-six advanced technical constructions, including Vrancic's parachute called the Homo Volans.

Jean Pierre Blanchard - Animal Parachute

Jean Pierre Blanchard (1753-1809) a Frenchman was probably the first person to actually use a parachute for an emergency. In 1785, he dropped a dog in a basket, to which a parachute was attached, from a balloon high in the air.

First Soft Parachute

In 1793, Blanchard claims to have escaped from an exploded hot air balloon with a parachute. However, this was an unwitnessed event. Blanchard, it should be noted, did develop the first foldable parachute made from silk, up until that point all parachutes were made with rigid frames.
Parachute History