Croatian Faust Vrancic (1551- 1617), jumped from a Venice tower in 1617 wearing his "Homo Volans", a rigid-framed parachute.
Faust Vrancic was born in Sibenik on the Dalmatian Coast. His primary education began with his uncle, Antun Vrancic, an esteemed diplomat, archbishop of Ostrog. Later he studies phylosophy and law in Padova. In the year 1575 he is accepted to the Croatian Brotherhood of St Jerolim, in Rome. After being appointed as the secretairy to king Rudolph the 2nd, in the year 1579, he begins his nature and technical science studies.
From 1594 to 1598 he lives in Dalmatia and Italy, working on his five-language dictionairy. In 1598, he is named Bishop of Canad, and is appointed the King's Advisor for Hungary and Transsilvania. In 1605 he resigned from court duty and joins the Order of St Paul, the so called Barnabites, in Rome. There he works on machine designs, and through a fellow Barnabite, Giovanni Ambroggio Mazenta, he learned of the technical works and concepts of Leonardo da Vinci.
His major work, "Machinae Novae" was published in Venice, 1595. The book contains 49 sketches and projects describing 56 technical innovations and constructions (in bridgebuilding, using air and water currents as a power source, "homo volans", etc.). All the innovations were simple and straightforward, and illustrated with an example of it's aplication in everyday life. The sketches were accompanied by detailed textual explanations, in Latin and Italian, and later translated to Spanish, German and French. This work depicts Faust as a true renneissance man with a very broad scope of interests and expertise.
Originally concieved by the genius Leonardo da Vinci, the idea of a parachute attracted very little attention at first. In 1595., inspired by Leonardo's sketches, Faust Vrancic designed his own version of a parachute, as depicted in his picture "Homo Volans". Although a rough design, all the elements of a modern parachute are present.
Records of the time say that the jump shown in the picture was successful. The experiment is also noted in "Mathematical Magic of the Wonders that may be Performed by Mechanical Geometry, part I: Concerning Mechanical Powers Motion, part II, Deadloss or Mechanical Motions" by bishop John Willkins, secretary to the Royal society in London, published in 1648. Faust Vrancic's interest in mechanics and technics was inspired by the numerous available works of contemporary constructors, architects and inventors of weapons, naval vessels, precision instruments and various mechanical devices. In his book "Machinae novae", he accredits the sources of all the designs, as well as sources of information on the subjects addressed in the book.
Apart from his works on mechanics, he also compiled the first printed Croatian dictionary, "Dictionarium quinque nobilissimarum Europae Linguarum" ("Dictionary of the five most noble languages of europe"), including Croatian, Latin, Italian, German and Hungarian. Inspired by Calepinus' dictionary of 1590, it contains over 5000 words per language, and their detailed definitions, but no language specific phrases or synonims. It was published in Italy, Hungary and the Check republic. It represented the Croatian language as one of the equals among European languages, and is a very important document for the Croatian language.
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