Humanities › History & Culture The Long History of the Parachute Share Flipboard Email Print 12019/Pixabay History & Culture Inventions Famous Inventions Famous Inventors Patents & Trademarks Invention Timelines Computers & The Internet American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Mary Bellis Inventions Expert Mary Bellis covered inventions and inventors for ThoughtCo for 18 years. She is known for her independent films and documentaries, including one about Alexander Graham Bell. our editorial process Mary Bellis Updated August 09, 2019 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 centuries earlier. 01 of 07 Early History of the Parachute Faust Vrančić/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain Before Sebastien Lenormand, other early inventors designed and tested parachutes. Croatian Faust Vrancic, for instance, constructed a device based on Da Vinci's drawing. To demonstrate it, Vrancic jumped from a Venice tower in 1617 wearing a rigid-framed parachute. Vrancic detailed his parachute and published it in "Machinae Novae," in which he describes in text and pictures 56 advanced technical constructions, including Vrancic's parachute (which he called the Homo Volans). Jean-Pierre Blanchard - Animal Parachute Frenchman Jean Pierre Blanchard (1753-1809) was probably the first person to actually use a parachute for an emergency. In 1785, he dropped a dog in a basket in which a parachute was attached from a balloon high in the air. First Soft Parachute In 1793, Blanchard claimed to have escaped from a hot air balloon that exploded with a parachute. However, there were no witnesses. 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. 02 of 07 First Recorded Parachute Jump Fulgence Marion (pseudonym of Camille Flamarrion)/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain In 1797, Andrew Garnerin became the first person recorded to jump with a parachute without a rigid frame. Garnerin jumped from hot air balloons as high as 8,000 feet in the air. Garnerin also designed the first air vent in a parachute intended to reduce oscillations. 03 of 07 Andrew Garnerin's Parachute Romanet & cie., imp. edit./Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain When opened, the Andrew Garnerin parachute resembled a huge umbrella about 30 feet in diameter. It was made of canvas and was attached to a hydrogen balloon. 04 of 07 First Death, Harness, Knapsack, Breakaway V.Leers/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain Here are a few little-known facts about parachutes: In 1837, Robert Cocking became the first person to die from a parachute accident.In 1887, Captain Thomas Baldwin invented the first parachute harness.In 1890, Paul Letteman and Kathchen Paulus invented the method of folding or packing the parachute in a knapsack to be worn on a person's 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. 05 of 07 First Freefall Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain Two parachuters claim to be the first person 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. 06 of 07 First Parachute Training Tower Underwood & Underwood (active 1880 – c. 1950)/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain Polish-American Stanley Switlik founded the "Canvas-Leather Speciality Company" on October 9, 1920. The company first manufactured items like leather hampers, golf bags, coal bags, pork roll casings, and postal mailbags. 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 the Switlik Parachute Company: "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!'" 07 of 07 Parachute Jumping Pixabay/Pexels Parachute jumping as a sport began in the 1960s when new "sports parachutes" were first designed. The parachute above drive slots for greater stability and horizontal speed. Sources Dunlop, Doug. "Leap of Faith: Robert Cocking’s Parachute Experiment of July 24, 1837." Smithsonian Libraries, July 24, 2013. "K. Paulus." Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. "Our Story." Switlik Parachute Co., 2019.