How man learned to fly: from Leonardo da Vinci to the present day

Man has always wanted to fly. Well, or, given Icarus's unfortunate experience, at least it's safe to descend from a great height. There is evidence that the idea of a parachute occurred to inventors long before Leonardo da Vinci. However, it was Leonardo who drew a sketch of this device at the end of the XV century — a canvas stretched on a pyramidal frame. Ropes were attached to the four corners of the pyramid, and a man held on to them. However, at that time, no one dared to try this invention in practice.

How man learned to fly: from Leonardo da Vinci to the present day

But a century later, the Croatian inventor Faust Verancic (or, in Italian, Fausto Verancio), based on a sketch of da Vinci, began work on the project Homo Volans ("man flying") and in 1617 safely descended on the dome from one of the Venetian towers.

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Then the baton passed to the French. In 1783, Louis-Sebastian Lenormand made a successful descent from a high tower on a four-meter structure that resembled an umbrella. Lenormand called his device a parachute, from para (against) and chute (falling). Two years later, his compatriot Jean-Pierre Blanchard conducted an experiment on a dog, dropping it by parachute from a balloon. Blanchard improved the design, abandoning the rigid frame. He also claimed that in 1793 he was the first to use a parachute as a means of emergency rescue by jumping from a burning balloon, but due to the lack of witnesses, this fact remained unconfirmed. The laurels of the first parachutist were given to another Frenchman — Andre-Jacques Garnerin, who on October 22, 1797 descended to earth from a height of 900 m on a seven-meter dome of his own design. The dome with the suspended basket was attached to the balloon, and at the right moment the aeronaut simply cut the fastening halyard. One of his next jumps, from a record height of 2300 m at that time, was watched by the famous French scientist Joseph Lalande, who drew attention to a strong "boltanka". After landing, he carefully examined the structure of the dome and advised to cut a small hole in the center, which significantly increased the stability of the descent.

Over the next century, many inventors looked for ways to make jumping convenient and safe. The basket was abandoned, and in 1887, U.S. army captain Thomas Baldwin proposed using a suspension system very similar to the modern one. In 1890, the next step was made by two German aerial acrobats-Paul Littman and Catti Paulus. They proposed two important improvements-a container for folding the parachute and an exhaust chute to speed up the process of opening the silk dome. However, these inventions were evaluated in due measure only after the advent of aviation. The last step was made in 1911 by our compatriot Gleb Kotelnikov, who developed a satchel parachute.