Leonardo da Vinci sketched a workable parachute, called a "tent roof," in 1495.

But the first successful parachute jump was made in France in 1783 when the French physicist Louis Sebastien Lenormand (1757-1839) made the leap from a tower.About this time France's Montgolfier brothers were experimenting with their first balloon flights. In 1797, another Frenchman, Andre Jacques Garnerin, dropped 6,500 feet from a balloon over Monceau Park in Paris in a 23-foot white canvas parachute with a basket attached.

In 1922, Lt. Harold Harris bailed out of a crippled plane near Dayton, Ohio, and became the first member of the Caterpillar Club, those whose lives have been saved by parachute.