The parachute is one of many inventions attributed to Leonardo but in fact, he did not invent it.
In 1968, researchers examining an obscure trove of Renaissance drawings discovered sketches from the studio of a 15th century Italian inventor that were eerily similar to Leonardo’s study for a parachute. The inventor, Mariano di Jacopo, known as Taccola was an engineer of the early Renaissance, 70 years older than Leonardo. He was among the first to use drawing as a design tool. Before him, engineers worked out their inventions as they built them, through trial and error. His manuscripts detail civil and military machines, some original, others are copies of ancient inventions. And just as Leonardo copied him, Taccola’s idea is copied from a Muslim inventor, Abbas Ibn Firnas, who, the story goes, leapt from the minaret of the Cordoba mosque in 852, and suffered only minor injuries.
The young Leonardo encountered Taccola’s drawings in the course of his artistic apprenticeship – beginning in 1467, at 15 years old.
Secrets of the Dead: Leonardo, The Man Who Saved Science premieres Wednesday, April 5 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).