Before Baumgartner

One hundred years before the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner took his leap, there was another Austrian daredevil– Franz Reichelt.

According to French magazine Nouvel Observateur, this tailor from Vienna had moved to France as a young man and become a French citizen — and an inventor. Reichelt created a prototype parachute that he believed could save the lives of aviators.

Although his tests mostly failed, Reichelt believed that this was because they were conducted from too low a base. He finally received permission to carry out a test on a dummy at the Eiffel Tower on February 4, 1912. To the surprise and dismay of his friends, instead of using a dummy, he insisted on jumping himself in his parachute suit, from only the first level of the tower, 200 feet above the ground.

A crowd was present and several cameramen filmed Reichelt’s attempt to float down. Unfortunately, a parachute needs more than 200 feet to deploy, and Reichelt was killed upon impact.

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