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Scuba Diving - A Very Brief Timeline | Scuba Diving Blog

Today we plunge into the history of scuba diving, taking a quick tour through the various scientific and technological advances that have created the sport as we know it today.


  • 500BCE - In early Greece and Rome, people would swim, dive, and breath-hold during underwater combat tournaments or while harvesting resources from under the water.

  • ~470BCE - Greek sculptor Scyllis was captured by the Persians and held prisoner onboard a ship. He escaped by jumping overboard and using a hollow reed to swim 9 miles to rejoin his countrymen. This was the earliest snorkel!

  • 332BCE - It was discovered that an upturned vessel would hold an amount of air within when submerged. Aristotle recorded the first use of a rudimentary diving bell used by Alexander the Great during the Siege of Tyre.

  • 13thC. - Persian divers made the first goggles or masks from thinly sliced and polished tortoise shells.

  • 16thC. - Diving bells made from upturned wooden barrels were used by pearl and sponge fisherman. The first full diving suits made of leather were created in England and France, allowing divers to descend to 60 feet. Air was provided via a manual pump, and metal helmets allowed divers to withstand greater water pressures.

  • 1681 - Advances in diving science led to the first hypothesis by French priest Abbe Jean de Hautefeuille that diving deeper alters the atmospheric pressure of the diver's air.

  • 1830s - Underwater salvage work was greatly improved through the use of surface-supplied air helmets.

  • 1873 - Weighing 200 pounds, the first rigid diving suit was designed by Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze.

  • 1876 - English engineer Henry Fleuss invented the first closed-circuit oxygen rebreather.

  • 1878 - John Smeaton perfected the wet bell design by connecting a hose to a pump on the surface. His bell was used in harbor and bridge construction throughout the world, however, it gave rise to workers surfacing from the bell with a mysterious illness known as 'caisson's disease'. We now know that this was in fact decompression sickness. In the same year, French scientist Paul Bert published La Pression barometrique, an investigation into the effects of air pressure and oxygen toxicity on the human body.

  • 1907 - Scottish scientist John Haldane designed the first decompression chamber and decompression tables after extensive experiments on animals.

  • 1942 - French engineer Emile Gagnan and French Navy Officer Jacques-Yves Cousteau invented the first autonomous diving system and on-demand regulator, known as the Aqua-Lung.

  • 1987 - Building on previous studies, and extensive experiments by the US Navy and scientists such as Robert Workman, Swiss scientist Albert Buhlmann developed the decompression algorithms used by divers today.

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