A Brief History of Parachuting


If you were to ask when the idea of parachuting first began, you would have to go back to the 1400’s.  It is then where we find Leonardo Da Vinci who creating, on paper, the concept of a practical parachute!

Historical records reveal Da Vinci’s sketch, along with his description of his genius idea, which read:  “If a man have a tent made of linen, of which the openings have all been stopped up, and it be about 23 feet across and twelve in depth, he will be able to throw himself down from any great height without suffering any injury.”  Da Vinci’s original idea and design for a flying piece of cloth was scribbled in one of his notebooks in 1483.

This was quite an astounding thought for someone who lived more than 500 years ago! Da Vinci sketched pictures of not only parachutes, but helicopter-like machines that resembled inventions of the 19th and 20th centuries.

What is equally fascinating is the fact that if we fast forward to the year 2000, a fearless British daredevil by the name of Adrian Nichols crafted a prototype of Da Vinci’s description and design which included a canopy that was triangular in shape with linen covering a wood frame.  Nichols actually tested Da Vinci’s never-before-tested idea; and here were Nichols’ results:  not only did Da Vinci’s parachute idea work, it had a smoother ride than its contemporary counterpart!


Others Claim Credit


Several hundred years after Da Vinci, if we take a leap (no pun intended) into the year 1783; we discover a man by the name of Sebastian Lenormand.  Mr. Lenormand gets credit for actually inventing the first practical parachute based on Da Vinci’s ideas.  Though other creative minds in other parts of the world dabbled with the idea of a parachute-like contraption, Lenormand was the first to have demonstrated the parachute principle.

Two years later, Lenormand got some competition Jean Peirre Blanchard ,who in 1785 claimed that he invented the first parachute.

Then, in 1797, Mr. Jacques Garnerin attempted the first parachute descent from a balloon hovering 3,000 feet above; and fortunately, it was a success. It was at this time that people would equip themselves with parachutes while riding in hot-air balloons to ensure a safe escape if the balloon encountered life-threatening flight problems.


The Parachute Progression


Once the idea of a working parachute became entrenched in the minds of people living in the 1800’s, a number of imaginative individuals jumped on the bandwagon to perfect the parachute’s practicality and functionality.

Captain Thomas Baldwin invented the first parachute harness in 1887; and Paul Letteman and Kathchen Paulus get credit for discovering the effective method of packing a parachute in a backpack, to remain readied, before the parachute is actually deployed.

Even though a number of people throughout the ages have done their parts to become involved with, or  receive credit for, the parachute’s invention or perfection, Da Vinci has never been forgotten or overlooked when it comes to the conception the first real parachute.  In fact, in June of 2000, a reporter – Dr. Damian Carrington, for BBC News Online, stated:  “Leonardo Da Vinci was proved right – over 500 years after he sketched the design for the first parachute!”