1799: Jeanne-Geneviève Labrosse combines the female parachute

Every week with RetroNews, the BNF press site, back on a sports story as told by the press of the time. This Saturday, the story of the first female parachute jump, in October 1799.

It’s not easy for a man and a woman in 1799 to get laid. In the proper sense of the term. André-Jacques Garnerin and a young citizen notice this. No question for the “central office”, the Paris police, to allow two people of the opposite sex to jointly reach the first sky aboard a balloon. No matter the reputation of André-Jacques Garnerin. He is the “balloonist of public holidays”, the one who offers the barges a moment of excitement tinged with funk by offering them a little balloon ride. He is also, and above all, the first man to have made a parachute jump in history. It was October 22, 1797 (1er Brumaire, year VI of the republican calendar) above the Parc Monceau (in Paris).

Garnerin is as obstinate as daredevil. He challenges the police decision and wins, as stated the Universal Chronicle June 15, 1798. “Citizen Garnerin announces that the defense which had been made to him to rise in the air, with a person of another sex, has just been lifted by the department of the Seine […]. The letter from the central administration to citizen Garnerin reads as follows: “Citizen, according to the complaint you addressed against the decree of the central office, which prohibits you from traveling in an aerostat with a young citizen, we consulted the Minister of the Interior and that of the general police, who both agree with our opinion, and think that it is no more scandal to see two people of different sexes rise together in the air, only to see them get into the same car, and that besides we can not prevent a woman of full age from doing in this respect what we allow men, and to give by rising in the airs a proof of both confidence in the processes and fearlessness […]. “” Garnerin explains to the newspaper that during the flight, he will not only be accompanied by a young citizen “With an extreme joy to see the day of the journey approaching”, but also animals, which will be dropped hanging on a parachute.

“The great aerostatic experiments continue, written the Gazette November 7, 1798, and women who no longer need men in this respect, will make observations on their own which they have not yet been aware of. “ The next daring are the citizens Henry and Labrosse, “Students in ballooning of citizen Garnerin”. “They will take an air balloon trip on the 20th of this month to the Garden of Apollo […]. They will make meteorological observations and various interesting experiences; when they reach an elevation of 300 toises [soit environ 600 mètres, une toise équivalant à 1,949 mètre, ndlr] they will launch a Garnerin-style parachute. ”

Following this first exclusively female flight, the Universal Chronicle November 17, 1798 proposes the “Report from citizens Henry and Labrosse on their air travel”. “We will not repeat here what the first air navigators described delightful sensations which one tastes while leaving the ground ground, and of the ecstasy which inspire the beauty and the grandeur of the picture of nature, tell the intrepid. We will say that we were penetrated by it, that we gave ourselves over entirely, until a very cold cold awoke us from our distraction. So we waved the tricolor, always signal of triumph and victory! Citizen Labrosse wrote a post containing these words: “Our fate is pleasant, we are without fear and without worry.” We tied him to the neck of a turtledove that we locked in a cage and we made him descend with a parachute that we had built, according to the method of Citizen Garnerin; our message has arrived safely. ”


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We don’t stop Jeanne Labrosse. The Courier of shows September 30, 1799, announces a “Extraordinary experience”. “Today, parachute descent of the citizen Labrosse (between 2 and 4 hours). It will rise up to 1,200 meters: from this immense height it will separate from its aerostat, and descend to the ground. “

It was not until October 13, 1799 that Jeanne Labrosse became the first woman to perform a parachute jump. His mentor, André-Jacques Garnerin, confesses to Friend of Laws from the next day the emotion that this feat gave him. “Yesterday, the experiment with the balloon ascent and the parachute descent of Citizen Labrosse was a complete success; I’ve never seen anything so impressive. The courage, skill and presence of mind of this kind and interesting person is second to none. I will always be proud to have trained a student whose beginning in my art will mark an epoch in the history of the century. “ Especially as we understand that the attempt was the subject of serious controversy: “His triumph immortalizes him, continues Garnerin, it confuses wickedness, crushes the serpent which dictated against it the abominable pamphlet with which Paris has just been flooded. Never has the slanderous monster exercised its rage with such fury and daring; surely people’s magistrates will believe in their dignity to have the perpetrators searched for and punished. ” We disclose: Jeanne-Geneviève Labrosse and André-Jacques Garnerin will marry a little later.

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The rest of the story belongs above all to Garnerin who multiplies the exploits aboard hot air balloons. In October 1803, he made the first long distance air journey, 300 km between Moscow and Polova in Russia. Four years later, in November 1807, he took off from Paris and flew amidst thunderstorms before running aground seven hours later and 395 kilometers further in a German forest. The balloon made the glory of André-Jacques Garnerin, it will cause his death, in the stupidest of ways, at 54 years old, on August 18, 1823 in Paris. On the site of a new balloon prototype, he was killed by the fall of a beam. Jeanne-Geneviève Labrosse, his widow, survived him for twenty-four years and died in 1847 at 72 years of age.

Gilles Dhers

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Coronavirus: what are the implications for cancer patients?

Grandstand. With the coronavirus, we are living much more than a health crisis. It is also a test of resistance for our health systems, even for the countries considered as “best ranked” by the various evaluation institutes or bodies. The indicators used, such as economic performance criteria, minimization of the cost of production, satisfaction of a standard of equity specific to each company, now appear to be poorly calibrated and insufficient in the face of such an epidemic crisis. As this pandemic progresses, we understand less the absence of indicators relating to the conditions of practice of those who provide care and to their dedication.

The fight against Covid-19 goes beyond a fight against the epidemic. It is also a struggle to maintain care for other chronic or acute pathologies that have not disappeared during this epidemic period. No one can also conceal the social and economic consequences, possible obstacles to access to care for all. An estimated 3.5 million French people are affected by cancer in France and 382,000 new annual cases in 2018, i.e. around 1,450 new cases diagnosed every day of the week. The Minister of Solidarity and Health regretted that cancer screenings were no longer carried out, “Calling the French” to return to their doctor for these diagnostic procedures. This announcement is important but may not be sufficient or essential to avoid the potential serious consequences of delayed or unannounced diagnoses, treatments degraded by necessity, renunciations of care or the interruption of inclusions in therapeutic trials.

A national strategy to be implemented

It would now be necessary to quickly implement a coordinated national strategy with a coherent territorial variation adapted to the local epidemiological and health situation, even when efforts are made to limit the spread of the virus by containment and barrier measures. The paradox of our society overdone with inflationary regulations and saturated with organizations of all kinds, but which ultimately finds it very difficult to organize or impose cooperation in this unprecedented context. Yet we have entered a period when things that once seemed impossible are inevitable.

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Since the epidemic crisis and the post-containment period are expected to last several months, the fear of the medical community with which I associate and of the nursing staff of my establishment specialized in the fight against cancer is that we are faced with a first “wave” of more serious cases than before linked to deferred care. After this period of crisis, the duration of which no one can seriously determine, health facilities that have been under tension for many years may find it difficult, especially if they have been considered as “Covid-19 hospitals”, to be absorbed into reasonable times the care of patients awaiting treatment as well as the flow of patients with newly diagnosed cancer reintegrating a course of care. It will most certainly take months to restore optimal organization. In addition, even if the epidemic crisis ends, the deterioration of the economy could accentuate inequalities with all its consequences on access to healthcare, particularly in the case of cancer.

Towards an increase in mortality?

For breast cancer, the most frequent cancer in women, whose annual number of new cases is estimated at 54,000 in France, the surgical management of patients with favorable prognostic criteria has been postponed, in accordance with the opinion of the High Council of Public Health available from mid-March and on the recommendations of learned societies. Even if these are remarkable recommendations which are unanimous during this period, it should not be forgotten that these are expert agreements for degraded care which should not last, at the risk a loss of luck for patients with even cancer said to have a good prognosis. Other examples could be taken, such as pancreatic cancer, the incidence of which has more than doubled over the past twenty years and whose unfavorable prognosis means that any delay in diagnosis by limiting access to radiology services, that any delay in surgical management due to the absence of an available operating theater or access to post-operative resuscitation could inevitably lead to an increase in mortality.

The Lombardy region of Italy, very affected as everyone knows by the pandemic, has managed to organize itself to maintain adequate care for cancer patients during this epidemic plague. Several platforms (HUB centers) have been set up, dedicated solely to the treatment of cancer patients (including the European Institute of Oncology and the National Cancer Institute in Milan). They receive newly diagnosed surgical candidates from area hospitals more dedicated to treating Covid-19 patients. These Covid-19-free cancer hospitals can continue to care for cancer patients even if they are small cancers with good prognosis.

This attention-grabbing pandemic should not make us lose our minds. After having wagered on economic performance for years, we suddenly moved on to the almost exclusive total fight against the Covid-19. It must be remembered that there is a middle way in everything that avoids extreme attitudes while preserving the future.


Emmanuel Barranger Surgeon oncologist, director general of the Center for the fight against cancer Antoine Lacassagne, Nice (Fédération Unicancer)

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