Timeline of diving technology

Timeline of diving technology

This is a timeline of underwater technology.

The entries marked ## are about decompression tables.[1]



  • Several centuries BC: (Relief carvings made at this time show 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 frogmen in action.)[citation needed]
  • Ancient Roman and Greek times, etc.: There have been many instances of men swimming or diving for combat, but they always had to hold their breath, and had no diving equipment, except sometimes a hollow plant stem used as a snorkel. See this link (in Portuguese).
  • About 500 BC: (Information originally from Herodotus): During a naval campaign the Greek Scyllis was taken aboard ship as prisoner by the Persian King Xerxes I. When Scyllis learned that Xerxes was to attack a Greek flotilla, he seized a knife and jumped overboard. The Persians could not find him in the water and presumed he had drowned. Scyllis surfaced at night and made his way among all the ships in Xerxes's fleet, cutting each ship loose from its moorings; he used a hollow reed as snorkel to remain unobserved. Then he swam nine miles (15 kilometers) to rejoin the Greeks off Cape Artemisium.
  • The use of diving bells is recorded by the Greek philosopher Aristotle in the 4th century BC: "...they enable the divers to respire equally well by letting down a cauldron, for this does not fill with water, but retains the air, for it is forced straight down into the water."[2]
  • 1300 or earlier: Persian divers were 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 Italy: he wrote in his Atlantic Codex (Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan) 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: Guglielmo de Lorena dives on two of Caligula's sunken galleys using a diving bell from a design by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • 1616: Franz Kessler built an improved diving bell.[3]
  • Around 1620: Cornelius Drebbel may have made a crude rebreather: see Rebreather#History of rebreathers.[3]
  • 1650: Otto von Guericke built the first air pump.[3]
  • 1715: the chevalier (sir) Pierre Rémy de Beauve, a French aristocrat who serves as garde de la marine in Brest, builds one of the oldest known diving dresses. De Beauve's dress was equipped with a metal helmet and two hoses, one of them air-supplied from the surface by a bellows and the other one for evacuation of the exhaled air.[4][5]
    • the Englishman John Lethbridge, a wool merchant, invents a diving barrel and successfully salvages valuables from wrecks.
  • 1772: the first diving dress using a compressed-air reservoir is successfully designed and built in 1772 by Sieur (old French for "sir" or "Mister") Fréminet, a Frenchman from Paris. Fréminet conceived an autonomous breathing machine equipped with a helmet, two hoses for inhalation and exhalation, a suite and a reservoir, dragged by and behind the diver,[6] although Fréminet later put it on his back.[7] Fréminet called his invention machine hydrostatergatique and used it successfully for more than ten years in the harbours of Le Havre and Brest, as states the explaining text of a 1784 painting.[8][9]
  • 1774: John Day becomes the first person known to have died in a submarine accident while testing a "diving chamber" in Plymouth Sound.[10][11]
  • 1776: David Bushnell invented the Turtle, first submarine to attack another ship. It was used in the American Revolution.
  • 1797: Karl Heinrich Klingert designes a full diving dress in 1797. This design consists of a large metal helmet and similarly large metal belt connected by leather jacket and pants.
  • 1798: in June F. W. Joachim, employed by Klingert, successfully completes the first practical tests of Klingert's armor.

19th century

  • 1800: Robert Fulton builds a submarine, the "Nautilus"
  • 1839 Canadian inventors James Eliot and Alexander McAvity of Saint John, New Brunswick patent an "oxygen reservoir for divers", a device carried on the diver's back containing "a quantity of condensed oxygen gas or common atmospheric air proportionate to the depth of water and adequate to the time he is intended to remain below".[12]
    • W.H.Thornthwaite of Hoxton in London patented an inflatable lifting jacket for divers.[13]
  • Around 1842: The Frenchman Joseph-Martin Cabirol (1799–1874) settles a company in Paris and starts making standard diving dresses.
  • 1843: Based on lessons learned from the Royal George salvage, the first diving school is set up by the Royal Navy.
  • 1856: Wilhelm Bauer starts the first of 133 successful dives with his second submarine Seeteufel. The crew of 12 was trained to leave the submerged ship through a diving chamber.
  • 1860: Giovanni Luppis, a retired engineer of the Austro-Hungarian navy, demonstrates a design for a self-propelled torpedo to emperor Franz Joseph.
  • 1863: H.L. Hunley becomes the first submarine to sink a ship, the USS Housatonic, during the American Civil War.[14]
  • 1866: Minenschiff, the first self-propelled (locomotive) torpedo, developed by Robert Whitehead (to a design by Captain Luppis, Austrian Navy), is demonstrated for the imperial naval commission on December 21.
  • 1882: Brothers Alphonse and Théodore Carmagnolle of Marseille, France, patent the first properly anthropomorphic design of ADS (atmospheric diving suit). Featuring 22 rolling convolute joints that were never entirely waterproof and a helmet that possessed 25 2-inch (51 mm) glass viewing ports,[15] it weighed 380 kilograms (840 lb) and was never put in service.[16]

Rebreathers appear

  • 1808: on June 17, Sieur Touboulic from Brest, mechanic in the Napoleon's Imperial Navy, patents the oldest known oxygen rebreather (but there is no evidence of any prototype having been manufactured). This early rebreather design worked with an oxygen reservoir, the oxygen being delivered progressively by the diver himself and circulating in a closed circuit through a sponge soaked in lime water.[17] Touboulic called his invention Ichtioandre (Greek for 'fish-man').[18]
  • 1849: Pierre-Aimable de Saint Simon Sicard (a chemist) makes the first practical oxygen rebreather. It was demonstrated in London in 1854.[13]
  • 1853: Professor T. Schwann designed a rebreather in Belgium; he exhibited it in Paris in 1878.[19] It had a big backpack oxygen tank at pressure about 13.33333 bars, and two scrubbers containing sponges soaked in caustic soda.
  • 1876: An English merchant seaman, Henry Fleuss, develops the first workable self-contained diving rig that uses compressed oxygen. This prototype of closed-circuit scuba uses rope soaked in caustic potash to absorb carbon dioxide so the exhaled gas can be re-breathed.[20]

Diving helmets get improved and commonly used

  • 1808: Brizé-Fradin designed a small bell-like helmet connected to a low-pressure backpack air container.[13]
  • 1820: Paul Lemaire d'Augerville (a Parisian dentist) invented and made a diving apparatus with a copper backpack cylinder, and with a counter-lung to save air, and with an inflatable lifejacket connected. It was used down to 15 or 20 meters for up to an hour in salvage work. He started a successful salvage company.[13]
  • 1825: William H. James designed a self contained diving suit that had compressed air in an iron container worn around the waist.
  • 1827: Beaudouin in France developed a diving helmet fed from an air cylinder pressurized to 80 to 100 bars. The French Navy was interested, but nothing came of this.[13]
  • 1829: Charles Anthony Deane and John Deane of Whitstable in Kent in England design the first air-pumped diving helmet for use with a diving suit. 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. Others say that it was based on earlier work in 1823 developing a "smoke helmet". However the suit was not attached to the helmet, so a diver could not bend over or invert without risk of flooding the helmet and drowning. Nevertheless, the diving system is used in salvage work, including the successful removal of cannon from the British warship HMS Royal George in 1834-35. This 108-gun fighting ship sank in 65 feet of water at Spithead anchorage in 1783.
    • E.K.Gauzen, a Russian naval technician of Kronshtadt naval base (a district of Saint Petersburg), offers a "diving machine". His invention was an air-pumped metallic helmet strapped to a leather suit (an overall). The bottom of the helmet is open. The helmet is strapped to the leather suit by metallic tape. Gauzen's diving suit and its further modifications were used by the Russian Navy until 1880. The modified diving suit of the Russian Navy, based on Gauzen's invention, was known as "three-bolt equipment".
  • 1837: Following up Leonardo's studies, and those of Halley the astronomer, Augustus Siebe develops standard diving dress, a sort of surface supplied diving apparatus.[21]
    • By attaching the Deane brothers helmet to a suit, Augustus Siebe develops the Siebe "Closed" Dress combination diving helmet and suit, considered the foundation of modern diving dress. This was a significant evolution from previous models of "open" dress that did not allow a diver to invert. (Siebe-Gorman went on to manufacture helmets continuously until 1975).
  • 1855: Joseph-Martin Cabirol patents a new model of standard diving dress, mainly issued from Siebe's designs. The suit is made out of rubberized canvas and the helmet, for the first time, includes a hand-controlled tap that the diver uses to evacuate his exhaled air. The tap includes on its turn a safety valve which prevents water from entering in the helmet. Until 1855 diving helmets were equipped with only three circular windows (for front, left and right sides). Cabirol's helmet introduced for the first time the later well known fourth window, situated in the upper front part of the helmet and allowing the diver to watch above him. Having been presented to the Exposition Universelle in Paris Cabirol's diving dress won the silver medal. These original diving dress and helmet are now preserved at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris.[22]
Diving set by Rouquayrol and Denayrouze with barrel-shaped air tank on the diver's back, depicted here in its surface-supplied configuration.

The first diving regulators

  • 1838: Dr. Manuel Théodore Guillaumet invented a twin-hose demand regulator. It was demonstrated used as surface-demand. Use duration was limited to 30 minutes by diving in cold water without a diving suit.
  • 1860: in Espalion (France), mining engineer Benoît Rouquayrol designs a self contained breathing set with a backpack cylindrical air tank that supplied air through the first demand regulator to be commercialized (as of 1865, see below). Rouquayrol called his invention régulateur ('regulator'), he conceived it to help miners to escape from dying drowned in flooded mines.
  • 1864: Benoît Rouquayrol meets navy officer Auguste Denayrouze for the first time, in Espalion, and both, on Denayrouze's initiative, adapt Rouquayrol's invention to diving. After having adapted it they called their recently patented device appareil plongeur Rouquayrol-Denayrouze ('Rouquayrol-Denayrouze diving apparatus'). The diver still walked on the seabed and did not swim. The air pressure tanks made with the technology of the time could only hold 30 atmospheres, allowing dives of only 30 minutes at no more than ten metres deep;[23] during surface-supplied configuration the tank was also used for bailout in the case of a hose failure. 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 Sea by Jules Verne, are wildly exaggerated fiction.
  • 1865: on August the 28th the French Navy Minister orders the first Rouquayrol-Denayrouze diving apparati and mass-production starts.[17]

Gas and air cylinders appear

  • Late 19th century: Industry begins to be able to 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 1937.
The oceanographer and biologist Emil Racoviță, here equipped with a standard diving dress. An underwater photograph taken by Louis Boutan (Banyuls-sur-Mer, south of France, 1899).

Underwater photography appears

  • 1893: Louis Boutan invents the first underwater camera and makes the first underwater photographs.
  • 1900: Louis Boutan publishes La Photographie sous-marine et les progrès de la photographie (The Underwater Photography and the Advances in Photography), the first book about underwater photography.

Decompression sickness becomes a problem

  • 1841: First documented case of decompression sickness occurs, reported by a mining engineer who observed pain and muscle cramps among coal miners working in mine shafts air-pressurized to keep water out.[3]
  • 1870: Bauer publishes outcomes of 25 paralyzed caisson workers.
  • From 1870 to 1910 all prominent symptoms/causes will be established: explanations at the time included: cold or exhaustion causing reflex spinal cord damage; electricity caused by friction on compression; or organ congestion and vascular stasis caused by decompression.[3]
  • 1871: The St Louis Eads Bridge employs 352 compressed air workers including Dr. Alphonse Jaminet as the physician in charge. There were 30 seriously injured and 12 fatalities. Dr. Jaminet himself suffered a case of decompression sickness when he ascended to the surface in four minutes after spending almost three hours at a depth of 95 feet in a caisson, and his description of his own experience was the first such recorded.[24]
  • 1872: The similarity between decompression sickness and iatrogenic air embolism as well as the relationship between inadequate decompression and decompression sickness is noted by Friedburg. He suggested that intravascular gas was released by rapid decompression and recommended: slow compression and decompression; four hour working shifts; limit to maximum depth 44.1 psig (4 ATA); using only healthy workers; and recompression treatment for severe cases.
  • 1873: Dr. Andrew Smith first utilizes the term "caisson disease" describing 110 cases of decompression sickness as the physician in charge during construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.[24] The project employed 600 compressed air workers. Recompression treatment was not used. The project chief engineer Washington Roebling suffered from caisson disease. (He took charge after his father John Augustus Roebling died of tetanus.) Washington's wife, Emily, helped manage the construction of the bridge after his sickness confined him to his home in Brooklyn. He battled the after-effects of the disease for the rest of his life. During this project, decompression sickness became known as "The [Grecian] Bends" because afflicted individuals characteristically arched their backs: this is possibly reminiscent of a then fashionable women's dance maneuver known as the Grecian Bend.
  • 1878: Paul Bert publishes La Pression barométrique, providing the first systematic understanding of the causes of DCS.[25]

20th century

  • 1900: John P. Holland builds the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the U.S. Navy, Holland (also called A-1).
    • ## Leonard Hill uses a frog model to prove that decompression causes bubbles and that recompression resolves them.[3]
  • 1903: Siebe Gorman starts to make a submarine escape set in England; in the years afterwards it was improved, and later was called the Davis Escape Set or Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus.[20]
  • from 1903 to 1907: Professor Georges Jaubert, invents Oxylithe, which is a form of sodium peroxide (Na2O2) or sodium dioxide (NaO2). As it absorbs carbon dioxide it emits oxygen and can be used in a rebreather.
  • 1905 Several sources, including the 1991 US Navy Dive Manual (pg 1-8), state that the MK V Deep Sea Diving Dress was designed by the Bureau of Construction & Repair in 1905, but in reality, the 1905 Navy Handbook shows British Siebe-Gorman helmets in use. Since the earliest know MK V is dated 1916, these sources are probably referring to the earlier MK I, MK II, MK III & MK IV Morse and Schrader helmets.
  • 1905: The first rebreather with metering valves to control the supply of oxygen is made.
  • 1907: Draeger of Lübeck makes a rebreather called the U-Boot-Retter. = "submarine rescuer".
  • 1908: ## Arthur Boycott, Guybon Damant, and John Haldane publish "The Prevention of Compressed-Air Illness", detailed studies on the cause and symptoms of decompression sickness, and propose a table of decompression stops to avoid the effects.[3][26]
    • ## The Admiralty Deep Diving Committee adopts the Haldane tables for the Royal Navy, and publish Haldane's diving tables to the general public.[3]
  • 1910: the British Robert Davis invents his own submarine rescuer rebreather, the Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus, for the Royal Navy submarine crews.
  • 1912: ## US Navy adopts the decompression tables published by Haldane, Boycott and Damant. Driven by Chief Gunner George Stillson, the navy sets up a program to test tables and staged decompression based on the work of Haldane.[27]
    • Maurice Fernez introduces a simple lightweight underwater breathing apparatus as an alternative to helmet diving suits.
    • Draeger starts the commercialization of his rebreather in both configuration types, mouthpiece and helmet.[28]
  • 1913: The Navy also begins developing the future MK V, influenced by Schrader and Morse designs.[27]
  • 1915: The submarine USS F-4 is salvaged from 304 feet establishing the practical limits for air diving. Three US Navy divers, Frank W. Crilley, William F. Loughman, and Nielson, reached 304 fsw using the MK V dress.
  • 1916 With the addition of a battery-powered telephone, the design of the MK V is finalized – however, several more design improvements are made over the next two years.
    • The Draeger model DM 2 becomes standard equipment of the German Navy.
  • 1917: The Bureau of Construction & Repair introduces the MK V helmet and dress, which then becomes the standard for US Navy diving until the introduction of the MK 12 in the late seventies
  • 1918: the Japanese Ohgushi patents his "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 his teeth.
  • Around 1920: Hanseatischen Apparatebau-Gesellschaft make a 2-cylinder breathing apparatus with double-lever single-stage demand valve and single wide corrugated breathing tube with mouthpiece, and a "duck's beak" exhalent valve in the regulator. It was described in a mine rescue handbook in 1930. They were successors to Ludwig von Bremen of Kiel, who had the licence to make the Rouquayrol-Denayrouze apparatus in Germany.[29]
  • 1925: Maurice Fernez exposes, at the Grand Palais, a new model of his underwater surface-supplied apparatus. Yves le Prieur, assistant at the exhibition, decides to meet the man in person and asks him to transform Fernez's apparatus into a hand-controlled self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. It delivered air at constant pressure without a demand regulator.[30]
  • 1926: Fernez-Le Prieur self contained underwater breathing apparatus demonstrated to the public in Paris, and adopted by the French Navy.
    • Draeger displayed a rescue breathing apparatus that the wearer could swim with. While the previous devices served only for ascending to the surface and were designed also to develop lift so that the wearer arrived at the surface without swimming movements, the diving set had weights, which also made it possible to dive down with it, to search and save after an accident.
  • 1937: US Navy publishes its revised diving tables based on the work of O.D. Yarbrough.[27]

Swim-diving starts

  • 1914: Modern swimfins are invented by the Frenchman Louis de Corlieu, capitaine de corvette (Lieutenant Commander) in the French Navy. In 1914 De Corlieu made a practical demonstration of his first prototype for a group of navy officers.[31]
  • 1924: De Corlieu leaves the French Navy to fully devote himself to his invention.[32]
  • The 1930s:
    • In France, Guy Gilpatric starts swim diving with waterproof goggles, derived from swimming goggles (which were originally invented by Maurice Fernez in 1920).
    • Sport spearfishing became common in the Mediterranean, and spearfishers gradually developed the common sport diving mask and fins and snorkel, with mostly Georges Beuchat in Marseille, France, which created the speargun and the first isothermic wetsuit, and Italian sport spearfishers started using oxygen rebreathers. This practice came to the attention of the Italian Navy, which developed its frogman unit Decima Flottiglia MAS using oxygen rebreathers and manned torpedoes, playing a large role in World War II.
  • 1933:
    • In April Louis de Corlieu registers a new patent (number 767013, which in addition of two fins for the feet included two spoon-shaped fins for the hands) and calls this equipment propulseurs de natation et de sauvetage (which can be translated as "swimming and rescue impulse device").[31]
    • In San Diego, California, the first sport diving club is started, called the Bottom Scratchers. As far as it is known, it did not use breathing sets; its main aim was spearfishing.
    • More is known of Yves Le Prieur's constant-flow open-circuit breathing set. It is said that it could allow a 20 minute stay at 7 meters and 15 minutes at 15 meters. It has one cylinder feeding into a circular fullface mask. 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 swimming.
  • 1934:
    • In France, establishment of Beuchat, oldest scuba diving and spearfishing company in the world,
    • In France a sport diving club is started, called the Club des Sous-l'Eau = "club of those [who are] under the water". It did not use breathing sets as far as is known. Its main aim was spearfishing. ("Club des Sous-l'Eau" was later realized to be a homophone of "club des soulôts" = "club of the drunkards", and was changed to ‘Club des Scaphandres et de la Vie Sous L’Eau’ = "Club of the diving apparatuses and of underwater life".)
  • 1935: The French Navy adopts the Le Prieur breathing set.
  • 1936: On the French Riviera, the first known sport scuba diving club started. It used Le Prieur's breathing sets.
  • 1937: The American Diving Equipment and Salvage Company (now known as DESCO) develops a heavy bottom-walking-type diving suit with a self-contained mixed-gas helium and oxygen rebreather.
    • ## US Navy publishes its revised diving tables based on the work of O.D. Yarbrough.[27]
  • 1939: After floundering for years, even producing his fins in his own flat in Paris, De Corlieu finally starts mass production of his invention in France. The same year he rented a licence to Owen P. Churchill for mass production in the United States. To sell his fins in the USA Owen Churchill changed the French De Corlieu's name (propulseurs) to "swimfins", which is still nowadays the current English name. Churchill presented his fins to the US Navy, who decided to acquire them for its Underwater Demolition Team (UDT).
    • Hans Hass and Hermann Stelzner of Drager, in Germany make the M138 rebreather. It is developed from the 1912 escape set a type of rebreather used to exit sunken submarines. The M138 sets are oxygen rebreathers with a 150 bar, .6 liter tank and appear in many of his movies and books.
  • 1944: American UDT and British COPP frogmen (COPP: Combined Operations Pilotage Parties) used the "Churchill fins" during all prior underwater deminings, allowing this way in 1944 the Normandy landings. During years after World War II had ended, De Corlieu spent time and efforts struggling into civil procedures, demanding others for patent infringement.[33]
  • 1954: Underwater hockey (octopush) is invented by four navy sub-aqua divers in Southsea who got bored swimming up and down and wanted a fun way to keep fit.

The diving regulator reappears

  • 1934: René Commeinhes, from Alsace, invents a breathing set working with a demand valve and destined to allow firefighters to breath safely in smoke environments.
  • 1937: Georges Commeinhes, son of René, adapts his father's invention to diving and develops a two-cylinder open-circuit apparatus with demand regulator. The regulator was a big rectangular box between the cylinders. Some were made, but WWII interrupted development.

World War II

  • 1939: Georges Commeinhes offers his breathing set to the French Navy, which could not continue developing uses for it because of WWII.
  • 1940-1944: Christian J. Lambertsen of the United States designed a 'Breathing apparatus' for the U.S. military. It was a rebreather.
  • 1942: Georges Commeinhes patents a better version of his scuba set, now called the GC42 ("G" for Georges, "C" for Commeinhes and "42" for 1942). Some are made by the Commeinhes' company.
  • 1942: with no relation with the Commeinhes family, Émile Gagnan, engineer employed by the Air Liquide company, obtains in Paris a Rouquayrol-Denayrouze apparatus (property of the Bernard Piel company in 1942). He miniaturizes and adapts it to gas generators since the Germans occupy France and confiscate the French fuel for war purposes. Gagnan's boss and owner of the Air Liquide company, Henri Melchior, decides to introduce Gagnan to Jacques-Yves Cousteau, his son-in-law, because he knows that Cousteau is looking for an efficient and automatic demand regulator. Both men meet then in Paris in December 1942 and adapt Gagnan's regulator to a diving cylinder.[34]
  • 1943: after fixing some technical problems Cousteau and Gagnan patent the first modern demand regulator.
    • Air Liquide builds two more aqualungs: there were now three, owned by Cousteau but also at the disposal of his first two diving companions Frédéric Dumas and Taillez. All three men use them to shoot the film Épaves (Shipwrecks), the first underwater film having beeing shot by means of scuba sets.[35]
    • In July Commeinhes reached 53 metres (about 174 feet) using his GC42 breathing set off the coast of Marseille.[36]
    • In October, and not knowing about Commeinhes exploit, Dumas dives with a Cousteau-Gagnan prototype and reaches 62 metres (about 200 feet) off Les Goudes, not far from Marseille. He felt then what is now called a nitrogen narcosis.[37]
  • 1944: Commeinhes died in the liberation of Strasbourg in Alsace. His invention was submerged by Cousteau's invention.
  • Various nations use frogmen equipped with rebreathers for some of the best known and most spectacular war actions: see Human torpedo.
  • Hans Hass later said that during WWII the German diving gear firm Dräger offered him an open-circuit scuba set with a demand regulator. It may have been a separate invention, or it may have been copied from a captured Commeinhes-type set.
  • Early 1944: the USA government, to try to stop men from being drowned in sunken army tanks, asked the company Mine Safety Appliances (MSA) for a suitable small escape breathing set. MSA provided a small open-circuit breathing set with a small (5 to 7 liters) air cylinder, a circular demand regulator with a two-lever system similar to Cousteau's design (connected to the cylinder by a nut and cone nipple connection), and one corrugated wide breathing tube connected to a mouthpiece. This set was stated to be made from "off-the-shelf" items, which shows that MSA had that regulator design before; also, that regulator looks like the result of development and not a prototype; it may have arisen around 1943.[38] In an example recovered in 2003 from a submerged Sherman tank in the Bay of Naples the cylinder was bound round in tape and tied to a lifejacket. These sets were too late for the D-day landings in June 1944, but were used in the invasion of the south of France and in the South Pacific war.
  • 1944: Cousteau's first aqualung is destroyed by a mis-aimed artillery shell in an Allied landing on the French Riviera: that left two.


  • The public first hears about frogmen.
  • 1945: In Toulon, Cousteau shows the film Épaves to the Admiral Lemonnier. The Admiral makes then Cousteau responsible for the creation of the underwater research unit of the French Navy (the GRS, Groupe de Recherches Sous-marines, nowadays called the CEPHISMER).[39] GRS' first mission was to clear of mines the French coasts and harbours. While creating the GRS, Cousteau only had at his disposal the two remaining Aqua-Lung prototypes made by l'Air Liquide in 1943.[40]
  • 1946: Air Liquide creates La Spirotechnique and starts to sell Cousteau-Gagnan sets under the names of scaphandre Cousteau-Gagnan ('Cousteau-Gagnan scuba set'), CG45 ("C" for Cousteau, "G" for Gagnan and "45" for 1945, year of their first postwar patent) or Aqua-Lung, that laster for commercialization in English-speaking countries. This word is correctly a tradename 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 1950s, including in the BSAC's publications and training manuals, and describing scuba diving as "aqualunging".
    • Henri Broussard founds the first post-WWII scuba diving club, the Club Alpin Sous-Marin. Broussard was one of the first men who Cousteau trained in the GRS.[41]
    • Yves Le Prieur invents a new version of his breathing set. Its fullface mask's front plate was loose in its seating and acted as a very big, and therefore, very sensitive diaphragm for a demand regulator: see Diving regulator#Demand valve.
    • The first known underwater diving club in Britain, "The Amphibians Club", is formed in Aberdeen by Ivor Howitt (who modified an old civilian gas mask) and some friends. They called underwater diving "fathomeering", to distinguish from jumping into water.[citation needed]
    • The Cave Diving Group (CDG) is formed in Britain.
  • 1947: Maurice Fargues becomes the first diver to die using an aqualung while attempting a new depth record with Cousteau's Undersea Research Group near Toulon.[11]
  • 1948: Auguste Piccard sends the first bathyscaphe, FNRS-2, on unmanned dives.
    • Siebe Gorman and/or Heinke start making Cousteau-type aqualungs in England. Siebe Gorman made those first patented aqualungs at Chessington from 1948 to 1960, popularly known as tadpole sets.[42] Captain Trevor Hampton had a dive with one. Siebe Gorman and the Royal Navy expected aqualungs to be used with weighted boots for bottom-walking for light commercial diving: see Aqua-lung#"Tadpoles".
    • Ted Eldred in Australia starts designing the first open-circuit single-hose scuba set known: see Porpoise (make of scuba gear).
    • Georges Beuchat in France creates the first surface buoy.
  • 1948 or 1949: Rene's Sporting Goods shop in California imports aqualungs from France. Hollywood sees them and gets interested.
  • 1949: Otis Barton makes record dive to 4,500 feet in his Benthoscope.
  • 1950: a British naval diving manual printed soon after this said that the aqualung is to be used for walking on the bottom with a heavy diving suit and weighted boots, and did not mention Cousteau.
    • A report to Cousteau said that only 10 aqualung sets had been sent to the USA because the market there was saturated.
    • The first camera housing called Tarzan is released by Georges Beuchat,
  • 1951: The movie "The Frogmen" is released. It is set in the Pacific Ocean in WWII. In its last 20 minutes, it shows USA frogmen, using bulky 3-cylindered aqualungs on a combat mission. This equipment use is anachronistic (in reality they would have used rebreathers), but it shows that aqualungs were available (even if not widely known of) in the USA in 1951.
    • 1951: The US Navy starts to develop wetsuits, but not known to the public. [1].[27][43]
    • 1951: In December, the first issue of Skin Diver Magazine (USA) appears. The magazine ran until November 2002.
    • Cousteau-type aqualungs go on sale in Canada.
  • 1952: Cousteau-type aqualungs go on sale in the USA.
    • Ted Eldred in Melbourne, Australia starts making for public sale the Porpoise (make of scuba gear). This was the world's first commercially available single-hose scuba unit and was the forerunner of most sport SCUBA equipment produced today. Only about 12,000 were made and 75% of those were used as hookah.
    • After World War II Lambertsen called his 1940-1944 rebreather LARU (for Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit) but as of 1952 Lambertsen renamed again his invention and coins the acronym SCUBA (for "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus"). During the following years this acronym was used, more and more, to identify the Cousteau-Gagnan apparatus, taking the place of its original name (Aqualung). In Britain the word aqualung, used for any demand-valve-controlled open-circuit scuba set, still continues to be used nowadays; in old times it was sometimes inaccurately for any scuba set including rebreathers.

Public interest in scuba diving takes off

  • 1953: National Geographic Magazine publishes an article about Cousteau's underwater archaeology at Grand Congloué island near Marseille. This 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 and Heinke kept aqualungs expensive, and restrictions on exporting currency stopped people from importing them. Many British sport divers used home-made constant-flow breathing sets and ex-armed forces or ex-industrial rebreathers. In the early 1950s, diving regulators made by Siebe Gorman cost £15, which was an average week's salary.
    • After the supply of war-surplus frogman's drysuits ran out, free-swimming diving suits were not readily available to the general public, and as a result many scuba divers dived with their skin bare except for swimming trunks. That is why scuba diving used often to be called skindiving. Others dived in homemade drysuits, or in thick layers of ordinary clothes.
    • After the supply of war-surplus frogman's fins dried up, for a long time fins were not available to the public, and some had to resort to such things as gluing marine ply to plimsolls.
    • Captain Trevor Hampton founds the British Underwater Centre at Dartmouth in Devon in England.
    • Rene's Sporting Goods shop (now owned by La Spirotechnique) becomes U.S. Divers, now a leading maker of diving equipment.
  • Georges Beuchat in Marseille, France invent and release the first isothermic wetsuit.
  • 15 October 1953: The BSAC is founded.[44][45]
  • 1954: USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, is launched.
    • The first manned dives occur in the bathyscaphe FNRS-2.
    • First scuba certification course in the USA is offered by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. Program created by Albert Tillman and Bev Morgan now known as LA County Scuba.[46]
  • 1954: In the USA, MSA advertises (in Popular Mechanics magazine) a two-cylinder aqualung-like open-circuit diving set using the MSA regulator.[38]
  • 1955: In Britain, "Practical Mechanics" magazine publishes an item "Making an Aqualung". [2]
  • 1955: Jacques-Yves Cousteau and assistant director Louis Malle, a young film maker of 23, shoot The Silent World, one of the first films to use underwater cinematography to show the ocean depths in color.
  • 1956: Wetsuits become available to the public.
  • 1956: ## US Navy publishes tables that allow for repetitive diving.
    • Around this time, some British scuba divers start making homemade diving demand regulators from industrial parts, including Calor Gas regulators. (Since then, Calor Gas regulators have been redesigned, and this conversion is now impossible.)
    • Later, Submarine Products Ltd in Hexham in Northumberland, England designed round the Cousteau-Gagnan patent and made sport diving breathing sets accessibly cheap. This forced Siebe Gorman's and Heinke's prices down and started them selling to the sport diving trade. (Siebe Gorman gave its drysuit the tradename "Frogman".) Because of this better availability of aqualungs, BSAC's policy towards rebreathers became merely "Here be dragons: keep out!" and remained so for a long time. In the USA, some oxygen diving clubs developed down the years. Eventually, the Cousteau-Gagnan patent time-expired and any firm could legally copy it.
  • 1956: The Silent World receives an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.
  • 1957: The television series Sea Hunt begins. It introduces scuba diving to the television audience. It ran until 1961.
  • 1958: USS Nautilus completes the first ever voyage under the polar ice to the North Pole and back.
  • 1958: The CMAS (World Underwater Federation) is founded in Brussels.
  • 1959: NAUI is founded by Albert Tillman and Neal Hess.
  • 1960: Jacques Piccard and Lieutenant Don Walsh, USN, descend to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the ocean (about 10900m or 35802 feet = 6.78 miles) in the bathyscaphe Trieste: see at this link and this link
    • USS Triton completes the first ever underwater circumnavigation of the world.
    • In Italy, sport diving oxygen rebreathers continued to be made well into the 1960s.
  • 1962: Robert Sténuit lives aboard a tiny one-man cylinder at 200 feet for over 24 hours off Villefranche on the French Riviera, becoming the world's first aquanaut.[11][47][48]
  • 1964: In France, Georges Beuchat creates the Jetfins, first vented fins.
  • 1964-1969: The U.S. Navy's SEALAB underwater habitat project.
  • 1965: ## Robert D. Workman of the U.S. Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) publishes an equation for computing decompression requirements suitable for implementing in a dive computer, rather than a pre-computed table.[49]
    • The film version of James Bond in Thunderball (using both sorts of open-circuit scuba) is released and helps to make scuba diving popular.
  • 1966: PADI starts.
  • 1968: First known rebreather with electronic parts is made: the Electrolung.
  • 1971: Scubapro introduces the Stabilization Jacket, now in England commonly called stab jacket, and elsewhere Buoyancy Control (or Compensation) Device (BC or BCD).
  • 1972: Scubapro introduces the decompression meter (the first analogic dive computer).
  • 1976: ## Professor Albert A. Bühlmann publishes his work extending the equations to adapt to diving at altitude and with complex gas mixes.[50]
  • 1983: The Orca Edge (the first electronic dive computer) is introduced.
  • 1985: The wreck of RMS Titanic is found. Air India Flight 182, a Boeing 747 aircraft, is found and salvaged off Cork, Ireland during the first large scale deep water (6,200 feet) air crash investigation.
  • 1986 Apeks Marine Equipment introduced the first dry sealed 1st Stage developed by Alan Clarke engineering designer, later to house a patented electronic pressure sensor named STATUS.
  • 1989: The film The Abyss (including an as-yet-fictional deep-sea liquid-breathing set) helps to make scuba diving popular.
    • The Communist Bloc falls and the Cold War ends (see Fall of Communism and dissolution of the Soviet Union), and with it the risk of future attack by Communist Bloc forces including by their combat divers. After that, the world's armed forces had less reason to requisition rebreather patents submitted by civilians, and sport diving automatic and semi-automatic mixture rebreathers start to appear. See "rebreather history" link below.
  • 1995: BSAC allows Nitrox diving and introduced Nitrox training.[45][51]
  • 1996: PADI releases their Enriched Air Diver Course.[52]
  • 1997: The film Titanic helps to make underwater trips onboard MIR submersible vehicles popular.
  • 1998 August: Dives on RMS Titanic occur using Remotely Operated Vehicle controlled from the surface (Magellan 725). First ever live video broadcast from the sunken White Star liner is made.
  • 1999 July: The Liberty Bell 7 Mercury spacecraft is raised from 16,043 feet (4891 m) of water in the Atlantic Ocean during the deepest commercial search and recovery operation to date.

21st century

  • 2006 August 1: Equipped with an ADS 2000 atmospheric suit a US Navy diver establishes a new depth record: 2,000 feet deep (609 metres).[53]
  • 2009 June: NAUI approves the first Standard Dress Sport Diving course. The course is conducted in Australia, bringing antique helmet diving back.

See also

  • Timeline of atmospheric diving suits


  1. ^ Entries marked ## are about decompression tables.
  2. ^ Arthur J. Bachrach, "History of the Diving Bell", Historical Diving Times, Iss. 21 (Spring 1998)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Acott, C. (1999). "A brief history of diving and decompression illness.". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal 29 (2). ISSN 0813-1988. OCLC 16986801. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/6004. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  4. ^ De Beauve's diving dress mentioned (in English) in the Musée du Scaphandre website (a diving museum in Espalion, south of France)
  5. ^ de Beauve's diving dress dedicated page (in French) in the Musée du Scaphandre website (a diving museum in Espalion, south of France)
  6. ^ Fréminet's invention mentioned in the Musée du Scaphandre website (a diving museum in Espalion, south of France)
  7. ^ Alain Perrier, 250 réponses aux questions du plongeur curieux, Éditions du Gerfaut, Paris, 2008, ISBN 978-2-35191-033-7 (p.46, in French)
  8. ^ French explorer and inventor Jacques-Yves Cousteau mentions Fréminet's invention and shows this 1784 painting in his 1955 documentary Le Monde du silence.
  9. ^ In 1784 Fréminet sent six copies of a treatise about his machine hydrostatergatique to the chamber of Guienne (nowadays called Guyenne). On April 5, 1784, the archives of the Chamber of Guienne (Chambre de Commerce de Guienne) officially recorded: Au sr Freminet, qui a adressé à la Chambre six exemplaires d'un précis sur une « machine hydrostatergatique » de son invention, destinée à servir en cas de naufrage ou de voie d'eau déclarée.
  10. ^ Tall, Jeffrey (2002). Submarines & Deep-Sea Vehicles. Thunder Bay Press, ISBN 978-1571457783
  11. ^ a b c Ecott, Tim (2001). Neutral Buoyancy: Adventures in a Liquid World. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 0-87113-794-1
  12. ^ Mario Theriault, Great Maritime Inventions 1833-1950, Goose Lane, 2001, p. 46
  13. ^ a b c d e Historical Diving Society magazine issue 45, page 37
  14. ^ Neyland, Robert S (2005). "Underwater Archaeology and the Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley.". In: Godfrey, JM; Shumway, SE. Diving For Science 2005. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences Symposium on March 10–12, 2005 at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, Groton, Connecticut. (American Academy of Underwater Sciences). http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/9012. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  15. ^ "The Carmagnolle Brothers Armoured Dress". Historical Diving Times (37). Autumn 2005. 
  16. ^ Roc Roussey, Vincent. "Mannequins équipés en matériel français [Suits of French manufacture]" (in fr). Association Les Pieds Lourds. http://www.pieds-lourds.com/Pages/mannequins.cfm?Pays=france. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  17. ^ a b Avec ou sans bulles ? (With or without bubbles?), an article (in French) by Eric Bahuet, published in the specialized website plongeesout.com.
  18. ^ Ichtioandre's technical drawing.
  19. ^ Bech, Janwillem. "Theodor Schwann". http://www.therebreathersite.nl/Zuurstofrebreathers/German/theodore_schwann.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  20. ^ a b Quick, D. (1970). "A History Of Closed Circuit Oxygen Underwater Breathing Apparatus". Royal Australian Navy, School of Underwater Medicine. RANSUM-1-70. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/4960. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  21. ^ Edmonds, Carl; Lowry, C; Pennefather, John. "History of diving.". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal 5 (2). http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/5894. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  22. ^ Cabirol's diving dress as described by the FFESSM's archeological commission (in French).
  23. ^ Description of the Rouquayrol-Denayrouze apparatus in the Musée du Scaphandre website (a diving museum in Espalion, south of France)
  24. ^ a b Butler WP (2004). "Caisson disease during the construction of the Eads and Brooklyn Bridges: A review". Undersea Hyperb Med 31 (4): 445–59. PMID 15686275. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/4028. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  25. ^ Bert, P. (originally published 1878). "Barometric Pressure: researches in experimental physiology". Translated by: Hitchcock MA and Hitchcock FA. College Book Company; 1943. 
  26. ^ Boycott, A. E.; G. C. C. Damant, J. S. Haldane. (1908). "Prevention of compressed air illness". J. Hygiene 8: 342–443. doi:10.1017/S0022172400003399. PMC 2167126. PMID 20474365. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/7489. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  27. ^ a b c d e Carter Jr, R. C. (1977). "Pioneering Inner Space: The Navy Experimental Diving Unit's First 50 Years". US Naval Experimental Diving Unit Technical Report NEDU-1-77. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/4799. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  28. ^ Drägerwerk dedicated page in Divingheritage.com.
  29. ^ Historical Diving Society magazine issue 45, page 43
  30. ^ A study research about Maurice Fernez's apparatuses (free translated to Italian from original French and English texts).
  31. ^ a b Alain Perrier, 250 réponses aux questions du plongeur curieux, Éditions du Gerfaut, Paris, 2008, ISBN 978-2-35191-033-7 (p.65, in French)
  32. ^ In the 1950s capitaine de frégate (Commander) Philippe Tailliez still was thinking that De Corlieu conceived his fins for the first time in 1924 (in fact he's started ten years earlier). See page 14 in Capitaine de frégate PHILIPPE TAILLIEZ, Plongées sans câble, Arthaud, Paris, January 1954, Dépôt légal 1er trimestre 1954 - Édition N° 605 - Impression N° 243 (in French)
  33. ^ Alain Perrier, 250 réponses aux questions du plongeur curieux, Éditions du Gerfaut, Paris, 2008, ISBN 978-2-35191-033-7 (p.66, in French)
  34. ^ The Musée du Scaphandre website (a diving museum in Espalion, south of France) mentions how Gagnan and Cousteau adapted a Rouquayrol-Denayrouze apparatus by means of the Air Liquide company (in French).
  35. ^ The 1943 documentary film Épaves, in Google vidéos (in French). Two early Aqua-Lung prototypes can be appreciated in the film.
  36. ^ Capitaine de frégate PHILIPPE TAILLIEZ, Plongées sans câble, Arthaud, Paris, January 1954, Dépôt légal 1er trimestre 1954 - Édition N° 605 - Impression N° 243 (page 52, in French)
  37. ^ Jacques-Yves Cousteau & Frédéric Dumas, Le Monde du silence, Éditions de Paris, Paris, 1953, Dépôt légal 1er Trimestre 1954 - Édition N° 228 - Impression N° 741 (pp. 35-37, in French)
  38. ^ a b Historical Diving Times, issue #44 (summer 2008), pages 5-12
  39. ^ Capitaine de frégate PHILIPPE TAILLIEZ, Plongées sans câble, Arthaud, Paris, January 1954, Dépôt légal 1er trimestre 1954 - Édition N° 605 - Impression N° 243 (page 59, in French)
  40. ^ Jacques-Yves Cousteau & Frédéric Dumas, Le Monde du silence, Éditions de Paris, Paris, 1953, Dépôt légal 1er Trimestre 1954 - Édition N° 228 - Impression N° 741 (page 72, in French)
  41. ^ Henri Broussard and his club as mentioned in the website of an old aqualungs' collector.
  42. ^ The Siebe Gorman tadpole set is here described by a French collector.
  43. ^ Fulton, H. T.; Welham W., Dwyer J. V., Dobbins, R. F. (1952). "Preliminary Report on Protection Against Cold Water". US Naval Experimental Diving Unit Technical Report NEDU-5-52. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/3387. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  44. ^ Valentine, R. BSAC: The Club 1953-2003. BSAC. ISBN 9780953891955. 
  45. ^ a b c BSAC. "Section 1.1 A Brief History of the British Sub-Aqua Club". BSAC. http://www.bsac.org/page/52/11-brief-history-of-bsac.htm. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  46. ^ "LA County Scuba" (in en-US). LACountyScuba.com. http://www.lacountyscuba.com/. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  47. ^ Lord Kilbracken (1963). "The Long, Deep Dive". National Geographic (National Geographic Society) 123 (5): 718–731. 
  48. ^ Sténuit, Robert (1966). The Deepest Days. New York: Coward-McCann. 
  49. ^ Workman, R. D. (1965). "Calculation of Decompression Schedules for Nitrogen-Oxygen and Helium-Oxygen Dives". US Naval Experimental Diving Unit Technical Report NEDU-6-65. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/3367. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  50. ^ Böni M., Schibli R., Nussberger P., Bühlmann Albert A. (1976). "Diving at diminished atmospheric pressure: air decompression tables for different altitudes". Undersea Biomedical Research 3 (3): 189–204. ISSN 0093-5387. OCLC 2068005. PMID 969023. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/2750. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  51. ^ Allen, C (1996). "BSAC gives the OK to nitrox. reprinted from Diver 1995; 40(5) May: 35-36.". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal 26 (4). ISSN 0813-1988. OCLC 16986801. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/6275. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  52. ^ Richardson, D and Shreeves, K (1996). "The PADI Enriched Air Diver course and DSAT oxygen exposure limits.". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal 26 (3). ISSN 0813-1988. OCLC 16986801. http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/6310. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  53. ^ Navy Diver Sets Record with 2,000 foot Dive


  • Mark Lonsdale, The Evolution of US Navy Diving.

Other diving history timelines (external links)

There are other diving history chronologies at:

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