The life jacket is a vital safety device on any boat, used to keep a person afloat. Whether you’re in the dead of night on the open sea or stuck in churning rapids far from land, a life jacket may be all that stands between you and disaster. But when was the life jacket invented?

Early Technologies and their Influence on the Life Jacket

Initially, the ancient Greeks created primitive floats for their arms and legs when travelling in the water. During this period, buoyancy aids were mainly composed of cork blocks and greased leather, and began to include air chambers from the 1700s onwards, as we as seal-skin bladders and hides filled with air around the torso. This idea of a buoyancy aid with a sealed air chamber eventually developed into the life jacket as we know it today.

The First Recorded Life Jacket

The first life jacket as we know it today is believed to have been designed by Canadian Peter Halkett in 1804. This jacket was designed to protect a person in case they fell into the sea and was connected to a lifeboat. Halkett’s idea was revolutionary, designed as a belt in order to keep the wearer’s head above the water, it was a huge breakthrough in maritime safety and remains the basic concept of today’s life jacket.


The life jacket is a vital piece of safety equipment for anyone travelling in the water. It has gone through hundreds of years of development, from early buoyancy aids made from greased leather and cork blocks, to Peter Halkett’s revolutionary belt design in 1804. Today, life jackets are available in a huge range of sizes, materials and levels of buoyancy, ensuring that everyone who travels in the water can stay safe.

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