Today, February 4, marks the 100 year anniversary of the high-speed death of Franz Reichelt, the man known as the Flying Tailor, and would-be parachuting pioneer. (Video below.)
In 1912, the Austrian-born French dressmaker, having realized a dire need for a proper parachute that could be worn by aviators, sought to invent such a device himself. While the parachute was nothing new, earlier forms required that the canopy already be open before the jump, or were otherwise too bulky to be worn by pilots. And so, Reichelt worked to develop a lightweight suit that could be deployed as needed.
His initial experiments, which employed the use of dummies dropped from buildings, weren't very successful. Believing, however, that part of his problem was a lack of available height, Reichelt petitioned authorities to allow an attempt at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Upon receiving permission, it was understood by everyone involved, including Reichelt's friends and assistants, that the attempt would be made once again using a dummy. Despite having yet achieved a successful deployment, however, the ambitious tailor surprised everyone by donning the suit himself. Pleas from his friends to reconsider went unheeded.
Moments later, Reichelt stepped onto the railing, leapt forward, fell 187 feet and smacked the frozen ground below. His apparatus failed to deploy. He died instantly.
Lucky for us and our sick sense of schadenfreude, the entire ordeal was caught on film, which today allows us to celebrate Reichelt's brave, yet fatal, attempt with repeated viewings via the Internet.
Note the final shot in which officials measure the dent Reichelt made in the ground.