Robert Cocking was one such name, and parachuting was his game. Well…kind of. Actually, he was an early 19th century artist with an interest in aeronautics. Inspired by earlier parachute jumps, he drew up his own plans. And who did the 61-year-old watercolor painter with no parachuting experience pluck to test his? You guessed it. He went up over South London on July 24th, 1837 in a hot-air balloon…and went down, as one eye-witness put it, “like a stone through a vacuum”. His was the first parachute-related death.

You’ve been listening to “Open, Parachute” by Danny Scholl, with David Terry conducting.

(mock incredulity):  Turns out the parachute design was to blame.  Here’s a little breakdown of the events, with some background info and a picture of the design.