200 BCE: Asia to Europe – The Parachute in East and West

Wikis > Skydiving > Chronology > 200 BCE: Asia to Europe - The Parachute in East and West

by Pat Works

Asia to Europe: The Parachute in East and West

The East–West dichotomy is the diversities perceived between Western cultures and the Eastern world.  Geographical boundaries of East and West are not fixed.

European parachute

Tradition and shallow research parrots the conviction  that the first European parachute was  sketched by Leonardo in the 1485 ‘Codex Atlanticus’ folio 381”v.  A century later Leonardo’s pyramidal ‘fall-breaker’ parachute evolved to be Fausto Veranzio’s Leonardo pyramidal parachute. 

The pre-Leonardo design

Overlooked is the earlier design of an unrelated conical parachute showing Francesco Di Giorgio’ 1470s Conical Parachute.  .. Francesco Di Giorgio’ invented the basic form of the parachute that we still use in the 1470s. The first European parachute was sketched by Francesco Di Giorgio in the 1470s “Book of Machines"

First depiction of a parachute was by Francesco Di Giorgio’ 1470s in the Book of machines" 

Francesco Di Giorgio 1First depiction of a parachute: was by Francesco Di Giorgio’ 1470s Conical Parachute

1470s, drawing from Italy paved the way for Leonardo da Vinci's parachute designs.

< Ref, Taccola and Francesco Di Giorgio, Sienese Engineers' Drawings, "Book of machines"; Circa 1470s; 26x18 cm.; (AKA: Addl. Ms. 34,113, folio 200v.); British Library, London >

The oldest known depiction of a parachute, Francesco Di Giorgio (Italy, 1470s)

Lynn White, Jr. pointed out sketches of parachutes 15 years before Leonardo Da Vinci's sketch in his paper  “Invention of the Parachute,” July 1968 issue of Technology and Culture (pps.  462-467) which refers to  “British Museum Additional Manuscript 34,113, folio 200v.”, (Fig. 1).   < JSTOR: Technology and Culture, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Jul., 1968), pp. 462-467>  ‘The anonymous author of British Museum Additional Manuscript 34,113, invented the basic form of the parachute that we still use.’  (Dr. L. White*)

*< Dr. White. a former president of the Society for the History of Technology and a recipient of the Leonardo da Vinci Medal, is a professor of history at the University of California. He is the author of Medieval Technology and Social Change, which was awarded the Pfizer Prize of the History of Science Society.> 

Francesco Di Giorgio’ 1470s Conical Parachute

First depiction of a parachute:

1470s, drawing from Italy paved the way for Leonardo da Vinci's parachute designs.

< Ref, Taccola and Francesco Di Giorgio, Sienese Engineers' Drawings, "Book of machines"; Circa 1470s; 26x18 cm.; (AKA: Addl. Ms. 34,113, folio 200v.); British Library, London >

. The oldest known depiction of a parachute, Francesco Di Giorgio (Italy, 1470s) 

Fausto_Veranzio_homo_volansVeranzio's 1615 parachute design titled "Flying Man" 

In Europe there seems to be nothing earlier than a description by Leonardo da Vinci about At) 1485 in the Codex Atlanticus, and apparently independently iw Faustus Verantius about Machinae Novae (1615 or. 

No European in fact jumped any manner of parachute until four hundred years after Francesco Di Giorgio “Book of Machines" was written circa 1470s. (AKA Manuscript 34,113

In November 1783 Louis Sébastian Lenormand of Montpellier read the account of a French seventeenth-century ambassador to Siam telling how an acrobat had entertained the king of that land by jumping from a height, his fall being slowed by two parasols with handles fastened to his belt.

On December 26, equipped with two umbrellas re-enforced by cords running from the tips of the ribs to the bottom of the handles, 1.  Le Normand climbed an elm in a private garden and successfully leaped from a branch. Public demonstrations ensued, one of which was witnessed by Joseph Monrgoltler, and Le Normand coined the word “parachute.””

Eastern World Parachutes

Asia to Europe The parachute in East and West 2Seven Story Granary-   pottery Chinese burial relic

In China, however, there are much older references. In the SAI Ji  (Historical Records), 90 Bc, Sima Qian* reported a 23rd century BC family drama of Emperor Shun.  Historian Sima Qian describes when China’s great leader Go Sou was Shun’s father.  The elderly sovereign remarried and had a second son named Xiang.  Although Shun was a super good guy. Nevertheless, hunger for power provoked Shun’s  step-mom and number-two son undertake to eliminate competition to the throne.  They proceed to have a go at assassination. Resourceful, their murder plots would make sensational TV crime drama. 

First, Mom and No.2 son politely invite young Shun to a barbeque. A cookout to rival “Gone With the Wind” is organized.

The plan is kill lure Shun up to the roof of a handy seven-story grain silo and then burning the granary and Shun to death.  Nice-guy Shun is enticed topside to enjoy the scenery. Meanwhile, jealous stepbrother Xiang torches the granary. Whilst things heat up, trusting son Shun is convinced to stay up on the roof “ to put the fire out.”  Needless to say, while Shun is firefighting on the roof, evil Xiang hauls away the ladder. As plotted, removing the ladder imprisons Shun to incinerate along with the structure on the fiery hot roof.  Shun hollers and hops around for a period until inspiration saves his ass. It is a windy day.  Shun adroitly fashions a parachute out of his hats and clothes, presents them to the wind and jumps off the roof, descends safety, and had meaningful conversations with his family.  <Wikipedia> and … In other versions, Shun holds two large bamboo hats to escape from the roof and land safely.  Or, Shun escaped safely by attaching a number of large conical straw hats together and jumping down. Whichever, this illustrates the principal of using bamboo hats to increase air resistance to reduce the falling speed. And that, is a very parachute like thing to do.

* Sima Qian,   Born: 139 BC, Died: 86 BC ---- He is distinguished for his Shiji, “the Records of the Grand Historian”; the principal historiography of early China. Chinese historian of the Han dynasty. Astronomer, calendar expert, and the first Chinese historian. 

The eighth-century AD commentator Sima Zhen* unambiguously understood Shun’s building descent as the quintessence of the parachute principle, saying that, ‘Shun’s hats functioned like a bird’s huge wings to render his body near weightless and convey him softly to the ground. ‘ 

*Sima Zhen was a Chinese historian born in Henan during the Tang Dynasty. Sima Zhen was one of the most important commentators on the Shiji. His commentary is known as the Shiji Suoyin (史記索隱), "Seeking the Obscure in the Grand Scribe's Records". 

A later parachuting reference occurs 1214 in the Ting Shi (Lacquer Table History) written by Yo Ke.  The history book relates general Yo Fei’s grandson recounting observations he’d witnessed in Canton when his father was governor. Canton had a large ms who had their own mosques, one of which had a 'grey cloud-piercing minaret like a pointed silver pen' with a spiral staircase inside. At the very top was a huge golden rooster , which was missing one leg. The leg had been stolen in 1180 by a cunning thief who had escaped by parachute. The robber's own account is preserved, for he seems to have been something of a local hero. 

He describes the escape as follows: 'I descended by holding on to two umbrellas without handles. After I jumped into the air the high wind kept them fully open, making them like wings for me, and so I reached the ground without any injury.''I descended by holding on to two umbrellas. After I jumped into the air the wind kept them fully open, making them like wings for me, and so I reached the ground without any injury.' 

Moslem community who had built mosques, one of which had a 'tall minaret with a spiral staircase.  adorned  the top of the spire was a huge golden rooster missing a leg. The leg had been stolen in 1180 by a cunning thief who had escaped by parachute. The robber's own account is preserved, for he seems to have been something of a local hero. He describes the escape as follows: 

He speaks of a one-legged rooster. A large chicken’s statue cast of solid gold decorating the roof of a tall tiered sacred pagoda lacking a leg which had been robbed. The thief tried to sell the leg in the local market place. This was not a clever move.  Captured and interrogated, the robber gave details as to how he had hidden in the pagoda until full night, gained access to the roof and the chicken, sawn off a drumstick, all he might carry, and “flew the coop” so to speak. Bidden to tell exactly how he had then escaped, he replied smugly, “I jumped. Holding tight on to two big-ass umbrellas, I took a flying leap off of the roof….”  He was glad to add, “High winds blew after I’d jumped into the night air compelling my umbrellas carry me like wings.  Near floating, I arrived at the ground without much injury.”  Yo Fei’s grandson didn’t say what befell the thief thereafter.  The robber was not on hand for comment.

Another translation reads: “1192     a Chinese acrobat stole some of the gold ornamentation off the roof of the Islamic minaret in Canton, and escaped by jumping with double umbrellas as a parachute

  1. In Canton at that time there was a large Arab community of merchants, who had their own mosques, one of which had a 'grey cloud-piercing minaret like a pointed silver pen' with a spiral staircase inside. At the very top was a huge golden rooster , which was missing one leg. The leg had been stolen in 1180 by a cunning thief who had escaped by parachute. The robber's own account is preserved, for he seems to have been something of a local hero. He describes the escape as follows: 'I descended by holding on to two umbrellas without handles. After I jumped into the air the high wind kept them fully open, making them like wings for me, and so I reached the ground without any injury.'

First depiction of a parachute was by Francesco Di Giorgio’ 1470s in the Book of machines" 

Newly revealed, the idea of parachute making came from the unknown Italian engineer

Francesco Di Giorgio. He designed the first sketch of a parachute in the late 1470s , which is the First depiction of the  parachute idea in western history.

However, the idea or using air resistance to slow a fall goes back much earlier. We can trace this principal of using air resistance to slow a fall back to the ancient periods of China.

The emperor Shun (舜) used a sort of parachute to survive a fall 

Then later on in 200 B.C., there were acrobats performing stunts of great falls using something similar to parachutes during their acrobatics in the palaces of the early Han Emperors.

Hence the invention of the parachute was for performances to entertain one emperor in China or to escape from another (murderous) emperor.   <http:///history/15th_cent/parachutes.html  >

golden drumstick 1Then in 1180 a group of sojourning expatriate Arabian businessmen in Guang Dong, China, built a local mosque. One day a thief climbed to top of the roof and stole one leg of a gold rooster. He successfully achieved his plan and jumped from the roof, landing on the ground holding tightly to two umbrellas without the handles. 

There are also historical accounts from 1308 that parachute performances again appeared in the palace of the Yuan Emperor.

In 1650 the parachute was being used in Siam (modern Thailand), which was outside of Chinese territory.

In 1783 a French adventurist named Louis-Sebastien Lenormand successfully landing on the ground from a high tower top using a sort of parachute. He named his object, which Chinese had been using for more than a thousand years, a parachute. After Lenormand, there came more adventurists who tried to challenge gravity with this skydiving activity from greater heights using such means as hot air balloons and airplanes for their jumps.  < http://www.historylines.net/history/15th_cent/parachutes.html  >

parachute.

Without protection of patent laws, engineers were hesitant to publish their ideas. Medieval and Renaissance engineers were more interested in playing with an idea than in doing anything with it. Their concern was Knowledge itself. They got pleasure from enlarging the theoretical repertory of technology.  At that time the new concepts’ practicality was of no great concern. 

The idea of the parachute, if not the parachute itself, was “in the air.” Francesco Di Giorgio  author of Book of machines, " (Manuscript 34,113), Leonardo, and Veranzio all lived in an passionately oral technological community, where ideas circulated for the most part by face-to-face discourse. 

No  European actually jumped in any form of parachute until three hundred years after Additional Manuscript 34,113 was written.

In November 1783 Louis Sébastian Lenormand of Montpellier read the account of a French seventeenth-century ambassador to Siam telling how an acrobat had entertained the king of that land by jumping from a height, his fall being slowed by two parasols with handles fastened to his belt.

On December 26, equipped with two umbrellas re-enforced by cords running from the tips of the ribs to the bottom of the handles, 1.  Le Normand climbed an elm in a private garden and successfully leaped from a branch.

Public demonstrations ensued, one of which was witnessed by Joseph Monrgoltler, and Le Normand coined the word “parachute.” 

WIKIPEDIA

The earliest evidence for the parachute dates back to the Renaissance period. The oldest parachute design appears in an anonymous manuscript from 1470s Renaissance Italy (British Museum Add. MSS 34,113, fol. 200v), showing a free-hanging man clutching a cross bar frame attached to a conical canopy. As a safety measure, four straps run from the ends of the rods to a waist belt. The design is a marked improvement over another folio (189v) which depicts a man trying to break the force of his fall by the means of two long cloth streamers fastened to two bars which he grips with his hands. Although the surface area of the parachute design appears to be too small to offer effective resistance to the friction of the air and the wooden base-frame is superfluous and potentially harming, the revolutionary character of the new concept is obvious.

Only slightly later, a more sophisticated parachute was sketched by the polymath Leonardo da Vinci in his Codex Atlanticus (fol. 381v) dated to ca. 1485. Here, the scale of the parachute is in a more favorable proportion to the weight of the jumper. Leonardo's canopy was held open by a square wooden frame, which alters the shape of the parachute from conical to pyramidal. It is not known whether the Italian inventor was influenced by the earlier design, but he may have learnt about the idea through the intensive oral communication among artist-engineers of the time. The feasibility of Leonardo's pyramidal design was successfully tested in 2000 by the British Adrian Nicholas and again in 2008 by another skydiver. According to the historian of technology Lynn White, these conical and pyramidal designs, much more elaborate than early artistic jumps with rigid parasols in Asia, mark the origin of "the parachute as we know it".

The Croatian inventor Fausto Veranzio (1551–1617) examined da Vinci's parachute sketch, and set out to implement one of his own. He kept the square frame, but replaced the canopy with a bulging sail-like piece of cloth which he came to realize decelerates the fall more effectively. A now-famous depiction of a parachute that he dubbed Homo Volans (Flying Man) appeared in his book on mechanics, Machinae Novae (1615 or 1616), alongside a number of other devices and technical concepts. It is widely believed that in 1617, Veranzio implemented his design and tested the parachute by jumping from St Mark's Campanile in Venice and that the event was documented some thirty years later by John Wilkins, founder and secretary of the Royal Society in London in his book Mathematical Magick or, the Wonders that may be Performed by Mechanical Geometry, published in London in 1648. However, in this book, John Wilkins wrote about flying, not about parachutes. He neither mentions Fausto Veranzio nor a parachute jump nor any event in 1617. Furthermore, the story does not explain how Veranzio could have managed to get the wooden frame out of the tower and into a horizontal position with himself underneath without the device tilting and collapsing. No evidence has been found that anyone ever tested Veranzio's parachute.