Eventhough parachutes seem to have been used in China since the 1100s and that Leonardo da Vinci of Italy had invented devices similar to parachutes nowadays, worldwide skydivers state that the French inventor André-Jacques Garnerin is the one to make the first parachute. In 1797 he jumped from a balloon over Paris using a parachute and kept on making other jumps in France and also in England.
Until 1903, when the Wright Brothers made the first aircraft flight, there were no parachute design developments. But along with the increasing industry of aviations, parachutes began to develop as well. In World War I , that is between 1914 and 1918, the military began using parachutes in their missions. They were a fast escape for balloon-borne observers, who drew enemy fire at their positions.
Barnstormers, who were in fact aerial showmen, fired the imagination of aviators and skydivers after World War I. The barnstormers showed airborne performances and parachute jumps and travelled every year throughout the United States. Competitions began as a result of the increase of parachuting awareness. The first contest of accuracy landing was held in 1930 in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
The military used paratroopers in World War II , that is between 1939 and 1945. The paratroopers were parachute-equipped soldiers and had the most famous use on D-Day, the invasion of Normandy (Normandie), France, on June 6, 1944. The allied paratroopers secured areas to make it easier for other soldiers to come ashore from boats, after landing behind enemy lines before sunrise.
The surplus of nylon parachute equipment after World War II and the fact that the U.S. Army had started the first military sport parachuting clubs, set the grounds of skydiving in the United Dtates, as a pleasant and relaxing activity. The same thing happened in many other countries, and thus , the first parachuting world championships were organized in 1951 in Yugoslavia.
Little by little, in the mid 1960, systems specially made for sport parachutes took the place of the military surplus systems. Parachutists started to call this activity skydiving and calling themselves skydivers. In order to improve the opening characteristics and to make them more maneuverable, there were a few sport modifications to military parachutes. A French Canadian kite builder, Domina Jalbert, developed in 1964 the the ram-air design, that has set the tendencies for parachutes in skydiving from then on.
Sport skydivers constantly tested new and revolutionary designs and materials. Apart from sport uses , there have also been designed sport-generated designs like military HAHO (high altitude, high opening) designs, smoke jumping designs and many types of equipment for two-person and four-person tandem jumping. The military HAHO designs allowed soldiers to silently fly over large areas. The smoke jumping designs aimed to put firefighters into remote forest fires from low altitude.
Skydiving has kept on becoming more and more popular after the late 1980s, and this is because the equipment, that is reliable, lightweight, and easy-to-operate, picture this sport as accesible to many people. The U.S. president George H. W. Bush also jumped , thus increasing the popularity of skydiving.