In a thrilling tumble toward Earth, on this day in history a French daredevil pioneered the parachute jump and revolutionized air travel forever.
On Oct. 22, 1797, French balloonist Andrew-Jacques Garnerin hovered 3,000 feet above Paris’s Parc Monceau and prepared to cut the rope that tied him to the hot air balloon and kept him in the sky.
“I was on the point of cutting the cord that suspended me between heaven and earth and measured with my eye the vast space that separated me from the rest of the human race,” he said about the moment later.
Then he cut loose and descended to the Parisian crowds below in the first high-altitude parachute jump in human history, recreated today by an interactive Google Doodle.
The 28-year-old daredevil had experimented with balloons and parachutes before, but this was his first jump from such a height. His silk parachute would likely more resemble modern-day umbrellas, rather than the high-tech parachutes that accompany skydivers today.
The ride wasn’t pleasant – Mr. Garnerin reportedly vomited due to the winds that sent his parachute topsy-turvy, spinning to the ground below. But amazingly, he tumbled to Earth without a scratch. The crowds that gathered to watch his fall went wild, and the parachute jump was born.