A short history of
- Several centuries BC: Relief carvings made at this time show (An
ancient kingdom in northern Mesopotamia which is in present-day
Iraq) Assyrian soldiers crossing rivers using inflated goatskin
floats. Several modern authors have wrongly said that the floats
were crude breathing sets and that they show (Click link for more
info and facts about frogmen) frogmen in action.)
- 1300 or earlier: Persian divers using diving goggles with windows
made of the polished outer layer of tortoiseshell.
- 15th century: Leonardo da Vinci made the first known mention of
air tanks, in his Atlantic Codex, that systems were used at that
time to artificially breathe under water, but he did not explain
them in detail due to what he described as "bad human nature", that
would have taken advantage of this technique to sink ships and even
commit murders. Some drawings, however, showed different kinds of
snorkels and an air tank (to be carried on the breast) that
presumably should have no external connections. Other drawings
showed a complete immersion kit, with a plunger suit which included
a sort of mask with a box for air. The project was so detailed that
it included a urine collector, too.
- 1531: G Roman Emperor uglielmo dives on two of Caligula's sunken
galleys using a diving bell from a design by Leonardo da Vinci.
- Around 1620: Cornelius Drebbel may have made a crude rebreather.
- 1772: Sieur Freminet tried to build a SCUBA device out of a
barrel, but died from lack of oxygen after 20 minutes, as he merely
recycled the exhaled air untreated.
- 1776: David Brushnell invents the first submarine to attack
another ship, the Turtle. It was used in the American Revolution.
- 1800: Robert Fulton builds the first practical submarine, the
- 1825: William H. James designs a self contained diving suit that
had compressed air in a iron container worn around the waist.
- 1829: Charles and John Deane, of Whitstable in Kent in England,
designed the first air-pumped diving helmet. It is said that the
idea started from a crude emergency rig-up of a fireman's water-pump
(used as an air pump) and a knight-in-armour helmet used to try to
rescue horses from a burning stable.
- 1837: Following up Leonardo's studies, and those of Halley the
astronomer, Augustus Siebe developed standard diving dress, a sort
of surface supplied diving apparatus.
- Around 1842: The Frenchman Joseph Cabirol started making standard
- 1856: Wilhelm Bauer starts the first of 133 successful dives with
his second submarine Seeteufel. The crew of 12 is trained to leave
the submerged ship through a diving chamber.
- 1860: Ivan Lupis-Vukic, a retired engineer of the Austro-Hungarian
navy, demonstrates a design for a self-propelled torpedo to emperor
- 1863: CSS Hunley is the first submarine to sink a ship Confederate
States Navy during the Civil War.
- 1865: Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze designed a diving
set with a backpack spherical air tank that supplied air through the
first known demand regulator. The diver still walked on the seabed
and did not swim. This set was called an aérophore. But pressure
cylinders made with the technology of the time could only hold 30
atmospheres, and the diver had to be surface supplied; the tank was
for bailout. The durations of 6 to 8 hours on a tankful without
external supply recorded for the Rouquayrol set in the book "Twenty
Thousand Leagues under the Seas" by Jules Verne, are wildly
exaggerated fiction. Judging by Jules Verne's inaccurate attempts in
the book at describing how the Rouquayrol set worked, how the demand
regulator works was not generally known or had already been
forgotten when he wrote the book, which was published in 1870. But
Jules Verne knew about the tendency of some divers surfacing into
rain to want to stay underwater to keep out of the rain.
- 1866: Minenschiff, the first self-propelling torpedo, developed by
Robert Whitehead, demonstrated for the imperial naval commission on
In the late 19th century and after, industry could make
high-pressure air and gas cylinders. That prompted a few inventors
down the years to design open-circuit compressed air breathing sets,
but they were all constant-flow, and the demand regulator did not
come back until 1939.
- 1879: Henry Fluess invented the first closed circuit breathing
device using stored oxygen and adsorption of carbon dioxide by a
caustic soda or rebreather for the rescue of mineworkers who were
trapped by water.
- 1893: Louis Boutan invented the first underwater camera.
- 1908: John Haldane, Arthur Boycott, and Guybon Damant published
"The Prevention of Compressed-Air Illness", detailed studies on the
cause and symptoms of decompression sickness.
- 1912: Haldane, Boycott and Damant published the U.S. Navy tested
1915: Sir Robert Davis invented an oxygen rebreather called the
"Submarine Escape Apparatus" to escape from sunken submarines. It
was the first rebreather to be made in quantity. After that, various
sorts of industrial oxygen rebreathers were made down the years for
use in unbreathable atmospheres on land.
- 1916: Release of the first filming of Twenty Thousand Leagues
Under the Sea. In filming the diving scenes, the actors used Oxylite
rebreathers, likeliest connected to heavy helmet-type bottom-walking
diving gear. In the 1930s sport spearfishing became common in the
Mediterranean, and spearfishers gradually developed the common sport
diving mask and fins and snorkel, and Italian sport spearfishers
started using oxygen rebreathers.
- 1918: Ohgushi patented "Ohgushi's Peerless respirator". It was a
constant-flow diving and industrial open-circuit breathing set. The
user breathed through his nose and switched the air on and off with
- Early 1930s: In France, Guy Gilpatrick invented waterproof diving
- 1933: Yves Le Prieur invented a constant-flow open-circuit
breathing set. It could allow a 20 minute stay at 7 meters and 15
minutes at 15 meters.
- 1933: In France, Louis de Corlieu patents the first swimming fins.
- 1933: In San Diego (USA) the first sport diving club started,
called the Bottom Scratchers: it did not use breathing sets or fins
as far as is known.
- 1934: Charles Beebe dives to 3028 feet using a bathysphere.
- 1935: On the French Riviera the first known sport diving club
started. It used Le Prieur's breathing sets. Its air cylinder was
often worn at an angle to get its on/off valve in reach of the
diver's hand; this would have caused an awkward skew drag in
-1939: the Frenchman Georges Commeinhes developed a two-cylinder
open-circuit apparatus with demand regulator. The regulator was a
big rectangular box between the cylinders. He offered this set to
the French Navy, which could not continue developing uses for it
because of WWII. In July 1943 he reached 53 meters (about 174 feet)
using it off the coast of Marseille, But he died in 1944 in the
liberation of Strasbourg in Alsace.
- 1939: Dr. Christian Lambertsen in the USA designed a
'Self-Contained Underwater Oxygen Breathing Apparatus' for the U.S.
military. It was a rebreather. It was the first device to be called
- 1941: During WWII, Italy used rebreathers were used for one of the
best known and most spectacular war actions: see Human torpedo.
- 1943: Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan invented an open-circuit
diving breathing set, using a demand regulator which Gagnan modified
from a demand regulator used to let a petrol-driven car run on a big
bag of coal-gas carried on its roof during wartime shortages of
petrol. Cousteau has his first dives with it. This set was later
named the Aqua-Lung. This word is correctly a trade name that goes
with the Cousteau-Gagnan patent, but in Britain it has been commonly
used as a generic and spelt "aqualung" since at least the 1950's,
including in the BSAC's publications and training manuals, and
describing scuba diving as "aqualunging". In October 1944 Frédéric
Dumas reached 62 meters (about 200 feet) with this set.
- 1948: Auguste Piccard sends the first bathyscaphe, FNRS-2, on
- 1950: Cousteau's Aqua-Lung became available (but very expensive)
to industry and civilians in Britain. Siebe Gorman made it at
- 1953: The National Geographical Society Magazine published an
article about Cousteau's underwater archaeology at Grand Congloué
island near Marseilles, and in French-speaking countries a diving
film called Épaves (= Shipwrecks) came out. That started a massive
public demand for aqualungs and diving gear, and in France and
America the diving gear makers started making them as fast as they
could. But in Britain Siebe Gorman kept aqualungs expensive, and
many British sport divers had to use home-made breathing sets and
ex-armed forces or ex-industry rebreathers, and some became expert
at home-making diving demand regulators from industrial parts such
as Calor gas regulators. Finally Submarine Products Ltd, in Hexham
in Northumberland in England, designed round the Cousteau-Gagnan
patent and made sport diving breathing sets accessibly cheap. In
those times, free-swimming diving suits were not readily available
to the general public, after the first rush of war-surplus frogman's
drysuits ran out, and as a result many scuba divers dived in merely
swimming trunks. That is why scuba diving used often to be called "skindiving".
1953: Captain Trevor Hampton founded the British Underwater Centre
at Dartmouth in Devon, England.
- 1953 October 15: The BSAC was founded.
- 1954: USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, is
- 1954: The first manned dives in the bathyscaphe FNRS-2.
- 1956: The first wetsuit was introduced.
- 1957 to 1961: The television series Sea Hunt introduced SCUBA
diving to the television audience.
- 1958: USS Nautilus completes the first ever voyage under the polar
ice to the North Pole and back.
- 1960: Jacques Piccard and Lieutenant Don Walsh, USN, descend to
Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the ocean (about 10900m
or 35802 feet) in the bathyscaphe Trieste.
- 1960: USS Triton completes the first ever underwater
- 1965: The film version of James Bond in Thunderball came out and
helped to make scuba diving popular.
- 1971: Scubapro introduces the Stabilization Jacket, or Buoyancy
Compensator, in England commonly called stab jacket.
- 1983: The Orca Edge dive computer was introduced.
- 1985: The wreck of RMS Titanic was found.
- 1989: The film The Abyss helped to make scuba diving popular.