Published: May 11, 2018
So you're considering trying out skydiving. You may wonder: how did it all start? What is the history of skydiving? Who invented skydiving? And who was the first person to ever skydive? Read on and wonder no more!
What Is The History of Skydiving?
Origin stories are captivating, and our wondering minds like to be satisfied by the backstory of how certain things began and came to be. Most histories are found in the dry pages of books, soft with a layer of aged dust. As an evolving sport, the history of skydiving is really a more active story - one that is still being written. No one person invented skydiving with a conscious purpose. Rather, it manifested in many forms across Europe and Asia.
Who Invented Skydiving?
In 90 BC, the Chinese historian Sima Qian reported the first recorded use of a "parachute" as taking place in the 23rd century BC. The young destined-to-be emperor Shun was lured to the roof of a seven story grain silo by his power-hungry stepbrother Xiang. Xiang set fire to the granary, leaving Shun trapped at the top. The saying of "necessity is the mother of invention" was proven true as the flames licked ever closer. Shun noticed that the day was particularly windy, fashioned a "parachute" out of his clothing and bamboo hat, took a leap - and safely descended to the ground below.
This first idea of increasing air resistance to reduce falling speed is one that appears again a bit later in Europe. The "parachute" shows up around 1470 with a design from Italian architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini for a conical parachute. Leonardo da Vinci later used di Giorgio's model when he began to develop his version of a parachute.
So, now that we have established where the design came from - who was the first person to actually put something like this to use for pleasure rather than necessity?
Who Was The First Person To Skydive?
To tell the story of the first person to actually make a skydive, we have to country hop to France and introduce a man named Andre-Jacques Garnerin. In the 18th century, ballooning began to grow in popularity. Monsieur Garnerin figured out just what a spectacle of aviation aerial stunts could be, and began devising a means to safely descend from the balloon to the ground with the use of a parachute. It was a mesmerizing aerial act, and people loved it. Garnerin's dramatic display is a close relative of the sport skydiving we enjoy today.
Curious who the first woman was to attempt a skydive? Read all about Tiny Broadwick and other famous female skydivers.
From Balloons to Military to Sport
As technology developed and borders expanded, various militaries around the world realized parachuting was an effective means of getting behind enemy lines to deliver supplies and soldiers. The parachutes being used for these exploits in the 1900s were safer than those rigid glider types utilized back in the day in France. For starters, they were fabric and flexible. Not to mention - they were deployed after a clean exit from an aircraft rather than a bulky mess of sail you were trying to wrangle out of a balloon.
After WWII, the soldiers who were part of those paratrooper insertions into foreign territories, weren't ready or willing to give up the freedom and rush they felt from parachuting. Here is where hobby parachuting begins to gain traction.
You see - these men realized something about skydiving: It is a way for man to satisfy the need to expand into his/her surroundings. As a species, humans are uniquely equipped to thrive in many environments. While most other species are relegated to either land, sea or sky almost exclusively, we are able to dabble in all three.
For men and women - then and now - skydiving is an expression of freedom. Why not honor the colorful history of skydiving AND your forefathers by stepping into their shoes and booking your tandem jump today?