12th century Yuan Dynasty records tell of parachutes being used in circus stunts to entertain the Beijing Royal Court. These may have been rigid canopies based on the Chinese umbrella.
Da Vinci’s proposal for a parachute (c.1485) is a cloth covered open-ended square based pyramid. He noted ‘If a man have a tent made of linen of which the apertures have all been stopped up, and it be twelve braccia (approximately 8 metres) across and twelve in depth he will be able to throw himself down from any great height without suffering any injury.’
His design remained unknown until the 19th century by which time the modern frameless silk parachute had been developed in France.
In 2000, British adventurer Adrian Nicolas safely descended 2300m under a full-size version of Leonardo’s device.
Modern ram-air parachutes consist of two layers of fabric separated by ribs to create air cells which when deployed turn the parachute into a controllable, steerable aerofoil.
Photo: Agata Dorobek / Shutterstock.com
Ram air parachute
Photo: Stanislaw Tokasrki / Shutterstock.com
brass, wood, painted canvas, wooden mannequin