History of Scuba Diving

history of scuba diving
The history of scuba diving is very well documented as far back as 1535. Jacques Cousteau was quoted as saying “It will happen my friends, surgery will affix a set of artificial gills to man’s circulatory system–right here at the neck–which will permit him to breathe oxygen from the water like a fish. Then the lungs will be by-passed and he will be able to live and breathe in any depth for any amount of time without harm. It will happen, I promise you.”

It appears as if Jacques Cousteau’s vision came true with the development of scuba diving. Actually, scuba diving or the idea of diving has been around for quite some time. In the 1500’s Leonardo Da Vinci designed the first known scuba diving apparatus. His drawings of a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus appears in his Codex Atlanticus. There is no record of Da Vinci ever following through with his design though.

However, you can go back even further into this history of scuba diving. Aristotle discussed the possibility of developing what eventually came to be known as a diving bell. A diving bell was a cable-suspended airtight chamber. It looked much like its name sake “the bell”. As the bell was lowered under the water the pressure of the water would keep the air trapped inside the bell. Hoses fed down from the surface would send in compressed gases. His not only allowed the person to breathe but compensated for the gases that were being released from the bottom of the bell. Without this compressed gas, the bell would partially fill with water. The diving bell was one of the earliest inventions for under water exploration. Around 1531, an Italian explorer Guglielmo de Loreno developed the first true diving bell which he used for exploring sunken ships.

S.C.U.B.A stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. So we can see why it is so much easier to say you’re going Scuba Diving.

People have been exploring the ocean since the beginning of time. Man ventured into the ocean for fish and other marine life. People have been practicing holding their breath underwater for as long as we can remember. The ocean and what it holds has always captivated us. Everything from a food source to simple curiosity over marine life and sunken ships, it’s all fascinating. In earlier days, reeds were use to breathe underwater. This however was limited since you could only go right below the surface. An attempt was also made to breathe from an air filled bag. The only problem was that divers were breathing back in carbon dioxide.

Advances were being slowly made in the diving world and during the 16th century, France and England, had both created leather diving suits and with the aid of manual air pumps divers were able to go to depths of about 60 feet. The 19th century brought great advances in underwater exploration. With the research completed by Paul Bert from France and John Scott Haldane from Scotland we learned more about the effects of water pressure on the body. Their work also help to define safe limits for compressed air diving.

Technological advancements in the areas of compressed air pumps, carbon dioxide scrubbers, regulators and more made it possible for divers to stay under the water for longer periods of time.
There are typically two types of scuba diving, open scuba diving and closed scuba diving. Open diving allows the diver to breathe air from a cylinder and the air blown out goes into the water and rises up to the surface. Closed diving is where the diver breathes in from a tank and then the blown air is released back into the tank where it is recycled to breathe again. This is also known as using a re-breather.

Scuba diving has been used for personal recreation and has been adopted by our U.S. Military for their teams like the U.S. Navy Seals. One this is for sure the world of scuba diving is an amazing adventure unlike any other you will ever experience.

The following historical time line will walk you through some of the advancements made in underwater exploration. Although there were many advancements throughout our time, this calendar highlights some of scuba diving and underwater explorations historical moments.

Scuba Diving History Calendar of Events

  • 1535 – Guglielmo de Loreno created the diving bell.
  • 1650 – First air pump created by Guericke.
  • 1691 – Edmund Halley created another form of the diving bell with weighted barrels. This was connected with an air pipe to the surface.
  • 1715 – John Lethbridge developed an underwater cylinder. The cylinder was supplied via an air pipe from the surface with compressed air.
  • 1837 – Augustus Siebe set the standard for many dive expeditions by sealing a diving helmet to a watertight diving suit.
  • 1843 – The first diving school was established by the Royal Navy.
  • 1865 – Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouse developed an underwater breathing apparatus. The tank connected to a mouth piece was strapped to the divers back. The diver was linked to the surface by a hose that pumped fresh air into tank.
  • 1911 – Draeger of Germany introduced the re-breather to the world.
  • 1933 Yves Le Prieur created a demand valve that connected to a high pressure air tank. This allowed the diver to be independent from the hoses that connected them to the surface.
  • 1943 – Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan created the first Aqua-Lung.
  • 1948 – The Aqua Lung regulator was imported to the United States.
  • 1956 – At the University of California introduces the first wetsuit.
  • 1959 – The first national Scuba Diver Certification program was presented by the YMCA. In this same year the Underwater Society of America was also formed.
  • 1960 – National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) was formed by Al Tillman and Neal Hess.
  • 1961 – John Gaffney forms the National Association of Skin Diving Schools (NASDS).
  • 1966 – John Cronin and Ralph Ericson found The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).
  • 1970 – Scuba Schools International (SSI) is created by Bob Clark.
  • 1971 – The Stabilization Jacket is introduced by Scubapro.
  • 1980 – Duke University presents a safe diving program known as the Divers Alert Network (DAN).
  • 1985 – The sunken wreckage of the Titanic was found.
  • 2001 – By diving to 308 meters, John Bennett breaks his own world record.

Now that you’ve been schooled in the history of scuba diving, take a look at the next section of the scuba diving guide. The types of scuba diving are vitally important to your scuba diving experience.