and Emigrants to America
Mobile Menu

Diving history

        Back to:
• –» How I started diving

Scuba Diving History


When did it all start?

Although there is no official record of the first underwater adventure historians guess it’s some 5000 years before the three wise men trundled into Bethlehem. Early Persian records tell of a diver being sent into the ocean depths to salvage sunken treasure in the fifth century BC. We know this because scientists found undersea artifacts on land and there are depictions of divers in ancient drawings. This type of diving is still practiced today in different variations – freediving and skin diving. To increase stamina and lung capacity many salvaging divers were trained from a young age. The deeper these divers could go the more they got paid, so with the aid of a flat rock and a rope around the waist they could drop down to 30 meters.

Using reeds to breath while submerged was one of the first primitive air supply systems adopted for warfare. It wasn’t until the end of the 16th Century that the open-ended diving bell was produced. This contraption allowed trapped air to be compressed within it when dropped vertically into the water giving divers a small reservoir of air to draw from.

In 1823 inventors revolutionized diving by converting a smoke apparatus used by firemen into the “Deane’s Patent Diving Dress” – a heavy suit for protection and leaded helmet with viewing ports and a hose for surface air. As the exhaust air was released through the open bottom of the helmet divers had to remain upright or risk drowning. In 1840 an added exhaust valve made the suit a precursor for today’s standard deep-sea surface-air-supplied diving dress.

SCUBA, – Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, was developed with the increase in technology enabling demand regulators to be invented, air to be compressed, and tanks to be designed light enough to be carried by divers while containing pressurized air. During WW2 French naval officer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and French engineer, Emile Gagnan, developed the open-circuit SCUBA system and aqualung – the blueprints for the safe and efficient scuba systems of today. With the massive increase in technology and the modernizing of dive equipment over the past 50 years, diving has become more accessible not only for salvaging and hunting but also as a sport. Every day new marine species, terrain and ecosystems are being discovered and explored. The next decade of diving is shaping up to be another milestone in diving and marine history.

Source photo: Wikipidia

Scuba Diving History Time Line



1535 – Guglielmo de Loreno developed what is considered to be a true diving bell. 

1650 – Von Guericke developed the first effective air pump. 

1667 – Robert Boyle observed a gas bubble in the eye of viper that had been compressed and then decompressed. This was the first recorded observation of decompression sickness or “the bends.” 

1691 – Edmund Halley patented a diving bell which was connected by a pipe to weighted barrels of air that could be replenished from the surface. 

1715 – John Lethbridge built a “diving engine”, an underwater oak cylinder that was surface-supplied with compressed air. Water was kept out of the suit by means of greased leather cuffs, which sealed around the operator’s arms. 

1776 – First authenticated attack by military submarine – American Turtle vs. HMS Eagle, New York harbor. 

1788 – John Smeaton refined the diving bell. 

1823 – Charles Anthony Deane patented a “smoke helmet” for fire fighters. This helmet was used for diving, too. The helmet fitted over the head and was held on with weights. Air was supplied from the surface. 

1828 – Charles Deane and his brother John marketed the helmet with a “diving suit.” The suit was not attached to the helmet, but secured with straps. 

1837 – Augustus Siebe sealed the Deane brothers’ diving helmet to a watertight, air-containing rubber suit. 

1839 – Seibe’s diving suit was used during the salvage of the British warship HMS Royal George. The improved suit was adopted as the standard diving dress by the Royal Engineers. 

1843 – The first diving school was established by the Royal Navy. 

1865 – Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouse patented an apparatus for underwater breathing. It consisted of a horizontal steel tank of compressed air on a diver’s back, connected to a valve arranged to a mouth-piece. With this apparatus the diver was tethered to the surface by a hose that pumped fresh air into the low pressure tank, but he was able to disconnect the tether and dive with just the tank on his back for a few minutes. 

1876 – Henry A. Fleuss developed the first workable, self-contained diving rig that used compressed oxygen. 

1878 – Paul Bert published “La Pression Barometrique,” a book length work containing his physiologic studies of pressure changes. 

1908 – John Scott Haldane, Arthur E. Boycott and Guybon C. Damant, published “The Prevention of Compressed-Air Illness,” a paper on decompression sickness. 

1912 – The U.S. Navy tested tables published by Haldane, Boycott and Damant. 

1917 – The U.S. Bureau of Construction & Repair introduced the Mark V Diving Helmet. It was used for most salvage work during World War II. The Mark V Diving Helmet became the standard U.S. Navy Diving equipment. 

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

1930 – William Beebe descended 1,426 feet in a bathysphere attached to a barge by a steel cable to the mother ship. 

1930s – Guy Gilpatric pioneered the use of rubber goggles with glass lenses for skin diving. By the mid-1930s, face masks, fins, and snorkels were in common use. Fins were patented by Louis de Corlieu in 1933 . 

1933 – Yves Le Prieur modified the Rouquayrol-Denayrouse invention by combining a demand valve with a high pressure air tank to give the diver complete freedom from hoses and lines. 

1934 – William Beebe and Otis Barton descended 3,028 feet in a bathysphere. 

1941-1944 – During World War II, Italian divers used closed circuit scuba equipment to place explosives under British naval and merchant marine ships. 

1942-43 – Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan redesigned a car regulator that would automatically provide compressed air to a diver on his slightest intake of breath. The Aqua Lung was born. 

1946 – Cousteau’s Aqua Lung was marketed commercially in France. (Great Britain 1950, Canada 1951, USA 1952). 

1947 – Dumas made a record dive with the Aqua Lung to 307 feet in the Mediterranean Sea. 

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

1951 – The first issue of “Skin Diver Magazine” appeared in December. 

1953 – “The Silent World” by Cousteau was published chronicling the development of the Cousteau-Gagnan Aqua Lung. 

1950s – August Picard with son Jacques pioneered a new type of vessel called the bathyscaphe. It was completely self-contained and designed to go deeper than any bathysphere. 

1954 – Georges S. Houot and Pierre-Henri Willm used a bathyscaphe to exceed Barton’s 1948 diving record, reaching a depth of 13,287 feet. 

1958 – The first segment of Sea Hunt aired on television, starring Lloyd Bridges as Mike Hunt, underwater adventurer. 

1958 – On the 28th of September 1958, delegates from 12 Federations: Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium, Brazil, France, Greece, Italy, Monaco, Portugal, Switzerland, the United States of America and Yugoslavia met in Brussels on the occasion of the congress of the independent International Confederation gathering all underwater disciplines. 


1959 – The World Underwater Federation (C.M.A.S.) was created in Monaco in 1959. Chaired by Sir J.Y. Cousteau, it represents all Federations and National Associations and/or Organisations active in the domain of underwater activities and diving- related sports. Today, C.M.A.S. ranks 184 world-wide members – 101 National Federations and 83 Diving Associations/Organisations pending their status as Federations. On the whole, C.M.A.S. can boast over 3.000.000 members – directly or through the Federations. 1959 – YMCA began the first nationally organized course for scuba certification. 

1960 – Jacques Picard and Don Walsh descended to 35,820 feet in the bathyscaphe Trieste. 

1960 – NAUI was formed. 

Rd bal1960 – Foundation of the divingclub OSCD in Dordrecht 

1962 – Beginning in 1962 several experiments were conducted whereby people lived in underwater habitats. 

1966 – PADI was formed. 

1968 – John J. Gruener and R. Neal Watson dove to 437 feet breathing compressed air. 

1970s – Important advances relating to scuba safety that began in the 1960s became widely implemented in the 1970s, such as certification cards to indicate a minimum level of training, change from J-valve reserve systems to non-reserve K valves, and adoption of the BC and single hose regulators as essential pieces of diving equipment. 

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

1981 – Record 2250 foot-dive was made in a Duke Medical Center chamber. 

1983 – The Orca Edge, the first commercially available dive computer, was introduced. 

1985 – The wreck of the Titanic was found. 

Rd bal – 1985, Septembe 21e, Cees Kloosterman became a 4****, Master scubadiver.

1990s – An estimated 500,000 new scuba divers are certified yearly in the U.S., new scuba magazines form and scuba travel is big business. There is an increase of diving by non-professionals who use advanced technology, including mixed gases, full face masks, underwater voice communication, propulsion systems, and so on. 

May 2002 – The FBI issued a nationwide alert saying that it has received information about a possible terrorist threat from underwater divers. The threat was serious enough for the agency to contact several scuba shops, seeking information about students and customers. 

November 2002 – “Skin Diver” magazine ceased publication. 

July 2003 – John Cronin, co-founder of PADI, died. 

July 2003 – Tanya Streeter, a world champion freediver, broke both the men’s and women’s variable ballast freediving world records. She descended 400 feet (122 meters) to capture the variable ballast record and become the first person to ever break all four deep freediving world records. 


Other sites to check out: