1700s to the 1800s:
The Englishman John
Lethbridge develops a one-man completely enclosed diving suit:
essentially, a reinforced, leather-covered barrel of air, equipped
with a glass porthole for viewing, and two arm holes with watertight
Also in 1715, a English inventor named
Becker demonstrates his new invention: a full, leather diving
suit and large, spherical metal helmet with a window. Three tubes
lead from the helmet to the surface, one for exhaled air and the
other two for fresh air pumped down by several large bellows.
When it was demonstrated, the diver stayed down for an hour, although
the depth reached wasn't recorded.
A Frenchman named Freminet produces a crude
brass diving helmet with eye holes. Air is supplied by a bellows
into a small air reservoir, then pumped down to the diver.
The first submarine (left) used to attack
a ship is launched in the United
States. Built by David Bushnell, a Yale student, the 7 -foot-long,
pear-shaped submarine carried only one crew member and was run
by two hand-operated screw propellers. The craft, called the Turtle,
was sent to destroy the British flagship H.M.S. Eagle, then anchored
in New York harbor. The mission failed.
John and William Braithwaite develop an
improved version of Freminet's helmet, as does a German named
Klingert in 1787.
An American, John Smeaton, incorporates
several improvements to the diving bell, including: a bell made
from cast iron; the first efficient hand-operated pump to sustain
the air supply via a hose; an air reservoir system and nonreturn
valves to keep air from being sucked back up the hoses when the
pump stops. This is the first
truly modern diving bell.
Robert Fulton, inventor of the steamboat,
builds an early submarine, the Nautilus.
The cigar-shaped craft is made of wood over iron plates, and uses
a horizontal rudder to control the up-and-down movement of the
submarine. That invention is still in use today.
Englishman William H. James designs a self-contained
underwater breathing apparatus (scuba).
In this design, the diver wears a helmet and carries a supply
of compressed air in a cast-iron belt fastened around the waist.
According to James, the diver can stay underwater for as long
as an hour using this outfit.
John and Charles Deane
adapt a fire-fighting apparatus
for use in diving, and call it the "Deane's Patent Diving
Dress." The system is later
modified into a prototype for the modern commercial diver's dress.
The Deanes go on to become successful salvage operators, and produce
what is probably the first diving manual.
An American engineer, Charles Condert,
develops a type of scuba in which air is stored in a copper pipe
worn around the body. The air is released into a hood that covers
the upper half of the body. Condert dies while testing out his
Augustus Siebe, a German instrument maker,
refines and improves the Deane's diving suit design and introduces
"Siebe Improved Diving Dress,"
the true predecessor to the famous deep-sea diving dress familiar
today to everybody.
Salvage operation of the Royal George brings
diving into the modern era, introducing many innovations and discoveries.
For example, divers use underwater
explosives for the first time,
and the "buddy system"
of divers working in pairs is introduced.
An improved scuba
outfit is developed by Frenchmen Benoit Rouquayrot and Auguste
Denayrouze. Their set is supplied
with air pumped from the surface into a closed helmet suit; the
suit is also fitted with a reservoir so that the diver can detach
himself from the air hose for a few minutes.
Just a few years later, the Rouquayrot-Denayrouze
apparatus is referred to in Jules
Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
English seaman Henry Fleuss invents a compact,
lightweight scuba that uses
pure compressed oxygen and a system to "reuse" the air
that the diver exhales by removing the carbon dioxide from it
and recirculating it back to the diver over and over again.
This system gives divers greater independence
from surface support. One problem with this system, though, is
the danger posed by breathing pure oxygen at high pressure or
when the person breathing it exerts great physical effort.
Paul Bert publishes a textbook, La Pression Barometrique,
based on his studies of the physiological effect of changes in pressure.
Bert shows that decompression
sickness is caused by the formation of gas bubbles in the body,
and suggests that gradual ascent will prevent decompression sickness.
In the same year, an English merchant
seaman, Henry Fleuss, patents an effective scuba in which he uses
a supply of pure oxygen under compression. By 1879 the system
allows the diver to stay underwater for up to three hours straight.
back to Timeline
Continue exploring the timeline into the 1900s
What does the future hold? Read about the importance
* decompression and the bends
* modern scuba equipment
* Jacques Cousteau
* the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory
* the first nuclear-powered submarine
* Sea Hunt
* Sylvia Earle