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Inventors Parachutes
By Mary Bellis

Leornardo DaVinci Parachute drawingLeornardo DaVinci Parachute drawing

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 and other inventors have designed parachutes, including Croatian Faust Vrancic who constructed a device based on Da Vinci's drawing and jumped from a Venice tower in 1617. 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 (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. In 1793, Blanchard claims to have escaped from an exploded hot air balloon with a parachute. Blanchard, it should be noted, also developed the first foldable parachute made from silk, up until that point all parachutes were made from rigid frames.

In 1797 (October 22), Andrew Garnerin was the first person recorded to jump with a parachute without a rigid frame. Garnerin jumped from hot air ballons as high as 8,000 feet in the air. Garnerin also designed the first air vent in a parachute intended to reduce oscillations.

In 1837, Robert Cocking became the first person to die from a parachute accident.

1920 Parachute DesignIn 1887, Captain Thomas Baldwin invented the first parachute harness and in 1890, Paul Letteman and Kathchen Paulus invented the method of folding or packing the parachute in a knapsak to be worn on the back before its release. Kathchen Paulus was also behind the invention of the intentional breakaway, which is when one small parachute opens first and pulls open the main parachute.

Two parachuters claim to be the first man to jump from an airplane, both Grant Morton and Captain Albert Berry parachuted from an airplane in 1911. In 1914, Georgia "Tiny" Broadwick made the first freefall jump.

Next two Patent Drawings: 1920 Parachute Design

The first known written account of a parachute concept is found in da Vinci's notebooks (c l495).

The World of Parachutes, Parachuting, and Parachutists
Parachute is said to have come into being by putting together the prefix "para" and the noun "chute."

1920 Parachute DesignFirst Parachute Training Tower - Switlik Parachute Company
Polish-American Stanley Switlik founded the "Canvas-Leather Speciality Company" on October 9, 1920. The company first manufactured items such as leather hampers, golf bags, coal bags, pork roll casings, and postal mail bags. However, Switlik soon switched to making pilot and gunner belts, designing flight clothing, and experimenting with parachutes. The company was soon renamed the Switlik Parachute & Equipment Company. According to Switlik's Website: 

In 1934, Stanley Switlik and George Palmer Putnam, Amelia Earhart's husband, formed a joint venture and built a 115 foot tall tower on Stanley's farm in Ocean County. Designed to train airmen in parachute jumping, the first public jump from the tower was made by Ms. Earhart on June 2, 1935. Witnessed by a crowd of reporters and officials from the Army and Navy, she described the descent as "Loads of Fun!"

History of Paratroopers
The idea of parachutes for military personnel was first suggested by the late Col. William (Billy) Mitchell, this was sometime during W.W.I even before they had chutes for American flyers.

The Development of the ParaPlane
Aeronautical Engineer, Steve Snyder, with the help of Adrian Vandenberg, completed the basic frame design of the paraplane in March of 1981.

Ejection Seats
When you have to leave that plane right now.

Modern Ejection Seats
Initially it was considered very "un-manly" to even consider wearing a parachute in an airplane.

1933 Parachute Design
1933 Parachute Design

Related Innovations

From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
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