The History of Scuba diving is a 'dry' subject at the best of times so I have done my best to add a bit of water.....





The History of Scuba diving timeline I have put in here is gleaned from all the historical texts I can find and is by no means a comprehensive history of all the participants in developing, over the centuries, the discipline we all know and love today.

It tends to revolve around what was done by Europeans and Americans as the recorded History of Scuba diving seems to have certainly been dominated by those cultures.
That doesn't mean there wasn't significant activity taking place in other locations such as the Middle East and the Far East, to mention but two regions, as evidenced by the cultures there and their traditional involvement in Pearl Diving and other associated industries. History of scuba diving involves records also coming from China, ancient greece as well as arabian nations.






Here goes then - Deep breath!



332 BC At the siege of Tyre, Alexander the Great was lowered in a diving bell, the first recorded use of the device in the history of scuba diving

1538 German writer Tasinier, who worked for the Emperor Charles V, accompanied the Emperor to Toledo where they witnessed two Greek divers in a demonstration of a diving bell. "They suspended a large Kettle to ropes, having its mouth inverted, and planks fixed within it to sit upon; and in this situation, taking with them a lighted candle, they descended to the bottom. The Kettle was balanced by means of lead fixed round its mouth, and by the weight of which it sunk. When it was drawn up, to the great astonishment of all present, the men were not wet, nor was the candle extinguished!". This appears to be the first concerted moves towards deep sea diving in the history of scuba diving.

1551 The diving machine invented by Nicholas Tartaglia which Davis describes as consisting of "...a wooden frame like that of a gigantic hour glass, to which a heavy weight was attached by a rope. A man standing in the frame, with his head enclosed in a large glass ball, open only at the bottom, "wound himself down to the sea floor by turning a windlass on which the rope was coiled.

1616 The German inventor Kessler introduced his diving bell with glass ports and a ballast weight for stability, but could have proven hazardous. Many historians have observed that if the diver took one false step, the bell would probably capsize, drowning its occupant.

1640 A more successful diving bell is the bell invented by Edward Bendall. This is recognised in the history of scuba diving as a significant moment.

1650 Von Guericke develops the first effective air pump. With such a pump Robert Boyle is able to undertake experiments in compression and decompression of animals. This will move development further towards a greater understanding of the hazards of deep sea diving and has a significant part to play in the history of scuba diving and the development of deep sea diving.

1665 An expedition used a diving bell to recover cannon from The Portuguese galleon Florencia, , resting in Tobermory Bay, Mull.

1667 Robert Boyle, English physicist and originator of Boyle's law, observes gas bubble in eye of viper that had been compressed and then decompressed. He writes: "I have seen a very apparent bubble moving from side to side in the aqueous humor of the eye of a viper at the time when this animal seemed violently distressed in the receiver from which the air had been exhausted." This is the first recorded observation, in the history of scuba diving, of decompression sickness or "the bends."

1678 French physician, Dr. Panthot, described in detail the famous salvage of the ships sunk on the reefs off Catalonia, Spain, in the port of Cadaques Two boats carrying a transverse beam between them supported the bell, which was made of wood. It was around thirteen feet high by nine feet across and the diver was seated on a crossbar in the middle of the bell. One of the two Moorish divers was able to work the bell for periods as long as two hours, but the other could not stand the heat generated in the bell, and thus was limited to around one hour of work. A moment in time when the history of scuba diving features the beginnings of commercial gain from scuba diving.

1687 William Phipps, an American who convinced the Duke of Albemarle to provide him support to salvage a treasure lost when a Spanish ship sank of the coast of San Domingo, his efforts produced 200,000 pounds sterling, earned him a knighthood and eventually made him High Sheriff of New England, at the same time earning him a place not only in the history of scuba diving but history as a whole.
Looks like the first time in the history of scuba diving there was a big pay-off!

1689 French physicist Denis Papin proposed what appears to be the first plan to provide air to the diving bell, under pressure, from the surface. Papin's proposal, never realised in an actual working model, was to use force pumps or bellows to maintain a constant pressure within the bell.

1690 Halley designed and built, of wood, a bell in the form of a truncated cone, with the larger end (diameter 5 feet) being open and the top (3 feet) closed. The air was replenished by the use of two barrels, each containing thirty-six gallons.

1715 Englishman John Lethbridge builds a "diving engine," an underwater oak cylinder that is surface-supplied with compressed air. Inside this device a diver can stay submerged for 30 minutes at 60 feet, while protruding his arms into the water for salvage work. Water is kept out of the suit by means of greased leather cuffs, which seal around the operator's arms. The diving engine is claimed to be used successfully for many years.

1772 Frenchmen, Sieur Freminet invented a 'rebreathing' device that recycled the exhaled air from inside of the barrel, this was the first self-contained air device. Freminet's invention was a poor one, the inventor died from lack of oxygen after being in his own device for twenty minutes. The hazards of diving were largely a mystery still. One of the many adventurers in the history of scuba diving who died for his efforts.

1776 First authenticated attack by military submarine - American Turtle vs. HMS Eagle, New York harbor. One of the many times in the history of scuba diving where military needs influenced the advances made.

1788 The first modern diving bell was constructed by the noted engineer the British John Smeaton. using, for the first time, a force pump and tube arrangement like that proposed by Papin over a century before. The bell had a force pump mounted on its roof, meaning that it could be totally submerged.

1812 James Rennie, designed a bell for use in Ramsgate Harbour. The bell, or "chest" inasmuch it was rectangular in a manner similar to that of Smeaton's, was made of cast iron, again with a force pump at the surface, operated by four men; unlike the Smeaton chest, the force pump was topside and not on the roof of the bell. It weighed 4,200 lbs, and had twelve convex lenses to admit light.

1823 Charles Anthony Deane, an English inventor, patents a "smoke helmet" for fighting fires. At some point in the next few years it is used as a diving helmet as well. The helmet fits over a man's head and is held on with weights; air is supplied from the surface through a hose. In 1828 Charles and his brother John Deane market the helmet with a "diving suit." The suit is not attached to the diving helmet but only secured with straps; thus the diver cannot bend over without risking drowning. Even so, the apparatus is used successfully in salvage work, including the removal of some canon from the Royal George in 1834-35

1825 "First workable, full-time SCUBA" in the history of scuba is invented by an English-man, William James. It incorporates a cylindrical belt around the diver's trunk that serves as an air reservoir, at 450 psi. (It is unclear if this equipment was ever actually used for diving).

1837 German-born inventor Augustus Siebe (1788-1872), living in England, seals the Deane brothers' diving helmet (see 1823) to a watertight, air-containing rubber suit. The closed diving suit, connected to an air pump on the surface, becomes the first effective standard diving dress in scuba diving history, and the prototype of hard-hat rigs still in use today. In his obituary Siebe is described as the father of diving. He earned an important place in the history of scuba diving.

1839 Seibe's diving suit is used during salvage of the British warship HMS Royal George. The 108-gun ship sank in 65 feet of water at Spithead anchorage in 1783. The "Siebe Improved Diving Dress" is adopted as the standard diving dress by the Royal Engineers. During this salvage, which continues through 1843, the divers report suffering from "rheumatism and cold," no doubt symptoms (among the first recorded in scuba diving history) of decompression sickness. Also of note in this salvage is the first recorded use of the buddy system for diving in the history of scuba diving.

1843 As a result of experience gained salvaging the HMS Royal George, the first diving school in the history of scuba diving is set up by the Royal Navy.

1864 Ernest Bazin, who was the first in scuba diving history to use electric lighting in deep sea diving underwater in 1864, invented one of the earliest underwater observatories, Bazin's observatory and lighting system was in use in 1872 during an expedition to salvage Spanish Galleons in Vigo Bay.

1865 Frenchmen Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouse, patent an apparatus for deep sea diving. It consists of a horizontal steel tank of compressed air (about 250-350 psi) on a diver's back, connected through a valve arrangement to a mouth-piece. Patented as the "Aerophore," the device delivers air only when the diver inhales, via a membrane that is sensitive to outside water pressure: in effect, the first demand regulator for underwater use in the history of scuba diving. With this apparatus the diver is tethered to the surface by a hose that pumps fresh air into the low pressure tank, but he is able to disconnect the tether and dive with just the tank on his back for a few minutes. This was a great step in the history of scuba diving.

1873 Dr. Andrew H. Smith presents his formal report as Surgeon to the New York Bridge Company, builders of the Brooklyn Bridge, about workers who suffered the bends after leaving the pressurized caisson. By the time of Smith's report, which recommends chamber recompression for future projects, all Brooklyn Bridge caisson work is completed. Smith's report makes no mention of the true cause of decompression sickness: nitrogen bubbles.

1876 An English merchant seaman, Henry A. Fleuss, develops the first workable, self-contained diving rig that uses compressed oxygen (rather than compressed air). In this prototype of closed circuit scuba, carbon dioxide is absorbed by rope soaked in caustic potash, so that exhaled air can be re-breathed. Although depths are limited (pure oxygen is toxic below about 25 feet of sea water, a fact not known at the time), the apparatus allows for relatively long bottom times, up to three hours. In 1880 Fleuss's apparatus is used by the famous English diver Alexander Lambert to enter a flooded tunnel and seal a hatchway door; the hatchway is 60 feet down and 1000 feet back into the tunnel.

1878 History of scuba records that Frenchman Paul Bert publishes La Pression Barometrique, a 1000-page work containing his physiologic studies of pressure changes. He shows that decompression sickness is due to formation of nitrogen gas bubbles, and suggests gradual ascent as one way to prevent the problem. He also shows that pain can be relieved by recompression. Bert provides the link between Boyle's 17th century observation of decompression sickness in a viper and the symptoms of compressed air workers first recorded in the 19th century, we move a further step closer, in the history of scuba, to understanding and controlling the hazards of diving.

1908 In 1906 the British Government asks John Scott Haldane (1860-1936), an eminent Scottish physiologist, to do research in the prevention of decompression sickness. Two years later Haldane, Arthur E. Boycott and Guybon C. Damant, publish their landmark paper on decompression sickness (from hyperbaric experiments done on goats). Tables based on this work are soon adopted by the British Royal Navy and later the United States Navy deep sea diving, and save many divers from the bends. Yet again military requirments feature strongly in the history of scuba.

1917 The U.S. Bureau of Construction & Repair first introduces the Mark V Diving Helmet. When attached to a deep sea dress and umbilical, the Mark V becomes the underwater work horse for deep sea diving for decades to come. This is a major milestone in the history of scuba.

1920 Research is begun in United States into the use of helium-oxygen mixtures for deep sea diving. To the beginning of World War II, the U.S. maintains a monopoly on helium. That military connection again in the history of scuba.

1924 First helium-oxygen experimental dives are conducted by U.S. Navy and Bureau of Mines.

1930 William Beebe, a diving pioneer and "oceanographic naturalist" descends 1426 feet in a round, 4'9" bathysphere; it is attached to a barge by a 7/8" non-twisting steel cable to the mother ship.

1930’s Guy Gilpatric, an American ex-aviator living in southern France, pioneers use of rubber goggles with glass lenses for skin diving. Fins are patented by a Frenchman, Louis de Corlieu, in 1933

1933 History of scuba records show the first sport divers club is started in California, called the Bottom Scratchers; a year later an amateur diving group, Club des Sous-l'Eau, is founded in Paris.

1933 French navy captain Yves Le Prieur modifies the Rouquayrol-Denayrouse invention by combining a specially designed demand valve with a high pressure air tank (1500 psi) to give the diver complete freedom from restricting hoses and lines. The apparatus contains no regulator; the diver receives a breath of fresh air by opening a tap, while exhaled air escapes into the water under the edge of the diver's mask. (In the late 1930s Cousteau used this apparatus but, as he wrote in The Silent World, "the continuous discharge of air allowed only short submersions.") In 1935 Le Prieur's SCUBA is adopted by the French navy.

1934 On August 15 William Beebe and Otis Barton descend 3028 feet in a bathysphere near Bermuda. This dive sets a deep sea diving depth record that remains unbroken for 14 years.

1936 Le Prieur founds the history of scuba world's first SCUBA diving club, called the "Club of Divers and Underwater Life."

1938 Edgar End and Max Nohl make the first intentional saturation dive in the history of scuba diving, spending 27 hours at a depth of 101 feet in a Milwaukee hospital hyperbaric chamber. Decompression takes five hours and one of the divers (Nohl) suffers the bends.

1939 The first completely successful rescue of submarine-trapped men is carried out. On May 23 the USS Squalus, a new 310-foot submarine, sinks in 243 feet of water during a checkout dive in the North Atlantic. Twenty-six of the crew die instantly in the flooded aft compartments. The forward, unflooded area holds 33 men (including the captain) with enough air and water to last several days. Within hours the largest submarine rescue in history is underway. By midnight of May 25 all 33 men are rescued by a new diving bell, the McCann-Erickson Rescue Chamber. The chamber fits over an escape hatch on the submarine; when the chamber and submarine hatches are opened the men enter the bell under one atmosphere of pressure. Four separate trips are used to rescue the men. The submarine is later salvaged and renovated, and enters World War II duty as the USS Sailfish.

1940 First year of production of Owen Churchill's swim fins. Initially, only 946 pairs are sold, but in later years production increases substantially, and tens of thousands are sold to the Allied forces.

1941-1944 During World War II Italian divers, working out of midget submarines, use closed circuit scuba equipment to place explosives under British naval and merchant marine ships. Later in the war the British adopt this technology to sink German battleship Tirpitz.

1942-43 Jacques-Yves Cousteau (a French naval lieutenant) enters the history of scuba with Emile Gagnan (an engineer for Air Liquide, a Parisian natural gas company) work together to redesign a car regulator that will automatically provide compressed air to a diver on his slightest intake of breath

1943 Cousteau and two close friends, Frederic Dumas and Philippe Tailliez, make over five hundred deep sea diving excursions with the aqualung, gradually increasing the depths to which they dive.

1946 Cousteau's Aqua Lung is marketed commercially in France. (It is marketed in Great Britain in 1950, Canada in 1951 and the USA in 1952).

1947 In August, Dumas makes a record deep sea dive with the Aqua Lung to 307 feet in the Mediterranean Sea.

1948 Otis Barton descends in a modified bathysphere to a depth of 4500 feet, off the coast of California.

1950 Despite the technical success of the aqua lung, it has yet to catch on in the U.S. So far only 10 aqua lung units have been shipped to the U.S. because, the distributor tells Cousteau, "the deep sea dive market is saturated." (That must rank amongst to biggest 'bloopers' of all time let alone in the history of scuba diving...

1951 The first issue of Skin Diver Magazine appears in December.

1950's The sport of diving gradually changes from breath-hold to mainly scuba diving. Dive stores open up around the U.S.

1953 The Silent World is published. Written in English by Jacques Cousteau, with the assistance of Frederick Dumas, the book details the development and early testing of the Cousteau-Gagnan Aqua Lung.

1950's Famed Swiss balloonist August Picard turns his attention to deep sea diving. With son Jacques, he pioneers a new type of vessel called the bathyscaphe (deep boat). The bathyscaphe is completely self-contained (not tethered to the surface), and designed to go deeper than any bathysphere. On February 15, 1954, off the coast of French West Africa, a bathyscaphe containing Georges S. Houot and Pierre-Henri Willm exceeds Barton's 1948 deep sea diving record, reaching a depth of 13,287 feet.

1957 First segment of Sea Hunt airs on television, starring Lloyd Bridges as Mike Hunt, underwater adventurer. The series inspires thousands of people to take up scuba diving.

1959 YMCA begins the first nationally organized course for scuba certification.

1960 On January 23, Jacques Picard and Navy lieutenant Don Walsh descend to 35,820 feet (10,916 meters, 6.78 miles) in the August Picard-designed, Swiss-built, US Navy-owned bathyscaphe Trieste. This dive takes place in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench,

1960's As accident rates for scuba divers climb, the first national training agencies are formed to train and certify divers; NAUI is formed in 1960, PADI in 1966.

1967 PADI, Professional Association of Diving Instructors, trains 3226 divers in its first year of operation.

1968 On October 14 John J. Gruener and R. Neal Watson dive to 437 feet breathing compressed air, off the coast of Grand Bahama Island. This deep sea diving record is not broken until 1990

1970s Important advances relating to scuba diving safety that began in the 1960s become widely implemented in the 1970s, including: adoption of certification cards to indicate a minimum level of training and as a requirement for tank refills rental of scuba equipment; change from J-valve reserve systems to non-reserve K valves and adoption of submersible pressure gauges; adoption of the buoyancy compensator and single hose regulators as essential pieces of diving equipment.

1980 Divers Alert Network is founded at Duke University as a non-profit organization to promote safe scuba diving.

1981 Record 2250 foot-dive is made in a Duke Medical Center chamber. Stephen Porter, Len Whitlock and Erik Kramer live in the eight-foot- diameter spherical chamber for 43 days, breathing a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen and helium. They beat their own previous record set in 1980.

1983 The first commercially available dive computer, the Orca Edge, is introduced. In the next decade many manufacturers market dive computers, and they become common equipment among recreational divers.

1985 U.S.-French team headed by Woods Hole researcher Robert Ballard, using a remote controlled camera attached to the mother ship, finds the wreck of the Titanic. The ship sits broken into two sections at 12,500 feet depth, some 400 miles northeast of New York. Since 1985 both the U.S. and France have revisited the site, and the French have recovered artifacts from the ship.

1993 The 50th anniversary of the invention of modern scuba diving is celebrated around the world. PADI, the largest of the national training agencies, certifies 515,000 new divers worldwide.

1990s An estimated 500,000 new scuba divers are certified yearly in the U.S., new scuba magazines form, dive computers proliferate, new liveaboards ply the waters and scuba travel is transformed into a big business. In North America alone recreational diving becomes a multi-billion dollar industry. At the same time there is expansion of "technical diving", diving by non-professionals who use advanced technology, including mixed gases, full face masks, underwater voice communication, propulsion systems, etc.

And thats about it so far, Scuba diving will continue to develop and technology will keep advancing.

What we have to do is make sure that while we develop the technology to stay down there longer and to go deeper...... we protect it at the same time....





History of scuba diving


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