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Parachute

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.

Skydiver 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.

 

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Main Main
His life His life
His insights His insights
Diving apparatus Diving apparatus
Parachute
Glider Glider
Turning the Pages Turning the Pages
   
 
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