The concept of a Parachute can be traced to the famed Leonardo da Vinci in France. Although, the first recorded use of a parachute was not until 1783. Da Vinci never constructed a working model in his lifetime, but his sketches and designs laid the groundwork for developing the parachute. Leonardo da Vinci’s parachute design can be found in his famous Codex Atlanticus, a collection of his drawings and notes.
In one of his sketches, he depicted a pyramid-shaped device made of linen cloth with a wooden frame. The design featured a central rigid pole and a series of ropes attached to the edges of the linen, allowing for controlled descent. Da Vinci’s design was not tested until 500 years later On June 26, 2000, British balloonist Adrian Nicholas constructed and successfully tested Da Vinci’s design.
Now back to the 1700s, In 1783, a Frenchman named Louis-Sébastien Lenormand made the first recorded parachute jump. Lenormand used a parachute based on a design similar to Leonardo’s, consisting of a canopy made of silk instead of linen because silk was more sturdy, with a rigid frame. He jumped from a tower in Montpellier, France, and landed safely, proving the effectiveness of the parachute as a means of descent.
In 1797 André-Jacques Garnerin, a French balloonist, made the first parachute descent from a hot air balloon using a parachute of his design. Garnerin’s parachute featured a silk canopy and a basket-like harness, providing stability during descent.
Materials such as silk were eventually replaced with more durable and lightweight fabrics like nylon once we reached the 1940s. Due to WW2, silk became challenging to export from Japan.
The updates, such as ripcord systems and automatic opening devices, further enhanced the safety and reliability of parachutes.
Parachutes have since become an essential safety device for military operations and aviation emergencies