|Leonardo's parachute design
Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan.
Codex Atlanticus, f.1058v.
Leonardo's parachute consists of sealed linen cloth held open by
a pyramid of wooden poles, about seven metres long. In his notebook
he remarks that with such a device anyone can jump from any height
without injury. The absence of a harness suggests otherwise, but
tests at the time would have been limited to trees, towers and cliffs.
Adrian Nicholas tested Leonardo's design, jumping from a hot-air
balloon at 3000 metres. He found the ride to be smoother
than the modern parachute. However weighing over 90 kg, it put
the parachutist in danger of injury on landing.
|Model of Leonardo's parachute.
Model-maker: Katarian Ollikaine.
All early parachutes had rigid frames like open umbrellas. A foldable
silk parachute, with a hole near the top of the canopy to stabilise it,
was developed and used in the late 18th century. The late 19th century
saw the introduction of the harness and the concept of packing the parachute
in a container.
However, it was not until 1920 that the modern fold-up parachute
with a ripcord was patented.