If you're like most of the civilized world, you likely went to Google at some point today to find out what that rash is or pictures of that sex thing you heard about or the molecular weight of toffee or something. And you were greeted with this adorable animated doodle of the first parachute jump ever. Too bad it's wrong.
The doodle is commemorating the 216th anniversary of André-Jacques Garnerin's parachute jump, which took place in 1797. Garnerin was a French early aviation pioneer, doing groundbreaking work in ballooning and making some of the very first parachute jumps as well. One especially noteworthy ballooning innovation he achieved was to take one of the first women passengers up in a balloon, which is likely the sole reason many late 18th century men were even interested in ballooning at all.
There was a good bit of controversy about this, but eventually it was decided that
"there was no more scandal in seeing two people of different sexes ascend in a balloon than it is to see them jump into a carriage."
So in some ways he can be seen as the man who made it possible to give ladies a lift in your sweet ride.
That's great, sure, and the man certainly was a pioneer of parachuting as well. He made his 1797 jump using a canvas parachute, laid out like an umbrella but with no rigid supports, that was connected to a gondola at the bottom and a hydrogen balloon up top. The hydrogen balloon carried Garnerin to about 3,000 ft of altitude before he cut the tether to the balloon and descended, bumpily, to the ground in his parachute-supported basket.
This is certainly a big achievement in the history of parachuting, but is it really the first parachute jump ever? No.
The real first parachute jump ever was achieved by Louis-Sébastien Lenormand fourteen years earlier, in 1783. Lenormand was a physicist and inventor, and while parachute-like devices had been sketched since the late 1400s, Lenormand was the first to actually build and use one, and even was the person to give the contraption its name, which literally translates to "that which protects against a fall." I suppose technically a parachute protects against being killed by a fall, but, still, it's a pretty good name and it stuck.
Lenormand's 1783 jump was off the roof of the Montpellier observatory, and while not as high as Garnerin's 3,000 foot drop, was still plenty high enough to turn the Frenchman into whatever the mushiest French food you can think of is.
The parachute Lenormand used had rigid wood supports, forming an umbrella-like apparatus with a 14-foot diameter. It seems to be because of those wood supports that Lenormand gets the shaft and Garnerin gets all the credit and Google doodles.
Yes, Garnerin's parachute is closer to what we use today. But I don't think that negates Lenormand's achievement one bit. When it comes to ascribing the honor of being the first one with nads big and steely enough to leap off of something really high, trusting that the absurd, home-made contraption you have will keep you from merging with the unforgiving ground, whether or not that contraption had rigid supports or not shouldn't matter at all.
Lenormand took a very literal leap of faith in science and technology, and that paved the way for later pioneers like Garnerin. Lenormand deserves the credit for the first parachute jump, and that's why I'm demanding, based on my authority as, um, a citizen of the internet, why not, that Google re-do this doodle immediately with Lenormand leaping off the Montpellier Observatory.
You have 24 hours.