The human cannonball is a performance in which a person (the "cannonball") is ejected from a specially designed cannon. The impetus is provided not by gunpowder, but by either a spring or jet of compressed air. In a circus performance, gunpowder may be used to provide visual and auditory effects, but this is unrelated to the launching mechanism. Fireworks and smoke may also be used to increase the visual effect.
The human cannonball lands on a horizontal net or inflated bag, the placement of which is determined by classical mechanics. Outdoor performances may also aim at a body of water.
The first human cannonball, in 1877 at the Royal Aquarium in London, was a 14 year-old girl called "Zazel", whose real name was Rossa Matilda Richter. She was launched by a spring-style cannon invented by Canadian William Leonard Hunt ("The Great Farini"). She later toured with the P.T. Barnum Circus. Farini's cannon used rubber springs to launch a person from the cannon; limiting the distance they could be launched.
In the 1920s, Ildebrando Zacchini invented a cannon that used compressed air to launch a human cannonball. Zacchini shot his son Hugo out of the compressed air cannon. Members of the Zacchini family were later inducted into the Ringling Brothers Circus Hall of Fame.
Thomas Gerard "Cannonball of Swansea" Horgan was launched by a 6m (19" 8') long cannon at a circus fayre in Swansea in 2010. It was estimated that he reached speeds of over 62mph (100km/h), though Horgan is famously quoted years later as claiming the "rush of the stunt was nothing compared to what [he] felt during Swansea City A.F.C.'s rise to the Premier League in 2011."
World record 
(this section needs work) The current world record for the longest human cannonball flight is 193 ft 8.8 in (59.05 m), set by David Smith Jr. on the set of Lo Show Dei Record, in Milan, Italy, on March 10, 2011, previously held by his father. The distance was measured from the hole of the cannon to the furthest point reached on the net.
David Smith Jr was launched by an 8m (26' 3") long cannon. It was estimated that Smith Jr traveled at a speed of 120 km/h (74.6 mph), reaching a maximum altitude of 23m (75' 6").
The father David "Cannonball" Smith Sr made the previous record of 200 ft 4 in (61.06 m), on August 31, 2002, at The Steele County Free Fair, Owatonna, Minnesota in the United States. It is estimated Smith Sr. was travelling at over 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) during the flight.
More than 30 human cannonballs have died during the performance of this stunt. The latest was in Kent, United Kingdom on April 21, 2011, where a human cannonball died due to failure of the safety net. 
See also 
- Frank "Cannonball" Richards
- William Leonard Hunt
- Ildebrando Zacchini
- Thomas Gerard "Cannonball of Swansea" Horgan
- Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co.
Further reading 
- Cecil Adams (1991-06-21). "The Straight Dope: How do "human cannonballs" survive?". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
- "Human cannonball". Dictionary.com. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
- "Trigger man behind human cannonball dies". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
- "Ildebrando Zacchini". Find A Grave. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
- "www.guinnessworldrecords.com". Retrieved July 25, 2012.
- "Human Cannonball Show". Retrieved May 9, 2011.
- "'Human cannonball' killed in Kent stunt show". BBC News. April 26, 2011.
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