Umbrella-like device for slowing the descent of a body falling through the atmosphere. Separate panels sewn together form a canopy attached by suspension lines to a harness worn by the user. Originally designed to provide a safe escape from a disabled aircraft, parachutes are also used for dropping supplies and for slowing returning space capsules. The parachute was conceived by the 14th century, but practical demonstrations began only in the 1780s in France, leading in 1797 to a 3,200-ft (1,000-m) exhibition jump from a balloon by André-Jacques Garnerin (1769–1823); in 1802 he made a jump of 8,000 ft (2,400 m). Early parachute material was canvas, which was later replaced by silk and then nylon. See also skydiving.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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