The International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame began in 2001. Recognising people who have contributed to the sport of scuba diving though innovation, increased accessibility or promotion of the sport itself.
George and John Ernest Williamson
The inductees for this new category of Early Pioneers are George and J. Ernest Williamson. In 1912, they modified an invention of their father's into an underwater viewing sphere for underwater film production.
Artificially illuminated photographs of the depths of Chesapeake Bay taken in 1913 produced such captivating results that Williamson was inspired to attempt motion pictures. With this new equipment, Williamson and his brother George set out for The Bahamas, where the sunlight can penetrate 150 feet deep in clear water, greatly enhancing photographic possibilities. In March 1914, near Nassau, Williamson shot the first-ever underwater motion pictures.
Consisting of two distinct parts, it was known as the Williamson Submarine Tube coupled with the Photosphere, which was the film platform at the end of it. In 1915, they created a movie version of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on location in the Bahamas. After opening in 1916, it broke box office records across America, likely because it was the world's first underwater movie and included several special effects.
In 1932, a compilation called 'With Williamson Beneath the Sea' was released, revealing the scientific uses of the Photosphere, and featuring his undersea family. This film has been restored by the Library of Congress. The Williamson's went on to make more underwater movies and one brother was later involved in recovering coral to build a reef inside a Chicago Museum.
Later, J.E. Williamson converted it into an underwater post office where collectible letters were sold, then stamped and franked as posted from Sea Floor, Bahamas.
George and John Ernest Williamson were pioneers of undersea motion picture photography.
Louis Marie Auguste Boutan was born on March 6,1859 in Versailles, France. He studied at Saint-Louis high school and graduated with degrees in literature and science. In 1879 he became an assistant at the University of Science in Paris and was deeply interested in naturalism. In 1880 he traveled to Australia and brought back specimens of wildlife for the Natural History Museum. In 1883 he was appointed as an assistant to the famed marine biologist Professor De Lacaze - Duthiers at the Sorbonne. He organised a scientific expedition to study marine animals of the Red Sea in 1891.
His research into underwater photography took place in the Argo Laboratory in Banylus-Sur-Mer between 1892 and 1900. He became very proficient in using a Denayrouze diving helmet, and with his mechanic built three different underwater camera housings. Using plates specially manufactured by the Lumiere brothers Boutan produced the very earliest underwater photos taken by a diver. He developed various underwater lights and filters to improve his photography. In 1917, he and his brother developed a scuba system that worked with a deep sea diving helmet.
He published three different texts on underwater photography in 1894, 1898 and 1900. The third book was La Photographic Sous-marine et Les Progres de La Photographie, in which he predicted underwater photography for the masses. The International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame holds an original copy of this rare book it its collection.
Henry Albert Fleuss was bom in Wiltshire, England in 1851. At the age of sixteen he went to sea, eventually becoming an officer with the P&O Company. Whilst watching divers recovering lost cargo in their heavy and cumbersome apparatus, Fleuss was inspired to find a way of making the diver independent of the surface and thus dispense with the heavy pump and the large crew of men needed to operate the apparatus.
Having studied the necessary physiology and chemistry in his spare time, Fleuss concluded that if the diver carried with him a supply of compressed oxygen and a means of chemically absorbing carbon dioxide, then he could remain completely independent of the surface. In 1878 he left the P&O and set about building his first self-contained diving apparatus. He proved to be both resourceful and innovative, building much of the apparatus himself, including a means of generating and compressing oxygen.
Fleuss had no previous experience of diving yet fearlessly tested his invention himself, attracting widespread interest through public demonstrations. A second, much improved model proved its worth in the flooded Severn Tunnel. Although there was considerable publicity for Fleuss and his apparatus, its significant potential as a means of rescuing trapped miners diverted attention away from its diving applications.
Fleuss collaborated with Robert Davis at the Siebe Gorman Company and developed the self-contained diving apparatus further. The Davis Submarine Escape Apparatus was a neat and compact derivative of the Fleuss apparatus and it also found use as a shallow diving apparatus, paving the way for the Frogmen and Human Torpedo riders of World War II.
Henry Fleuss was an habitual inventor, turning his mind to solving many diverse problems. He went on to produce the first practical tubeless tyres, the highly efficient Gerryck vacuum pumps, a steam car and more besides. However, it is for his pioneering work in developing the first practical closed-circuit breathing apparatus for mine rescue and diving that he will always be remembered. He died in 1932.
Yves Le Prieur was bom on March 23,1885 and followed his father into the French navy. As an officer he served in Asia and used traditional deep sea diving equipment. He studied Japanese and became proficient enough to be promoted as the military attache and translator at the French Embassy in Tokyo. While there he became the first Frenchman to earn a Black Belt in judo and the first person ever to take off in a plane (a glider) from Japanese soil.
His military career was very distinguished and he invented several new technical appliances including a giro-clinometer. He ended WWI as one of the most decorated officers and continued his career in aviation. In 1925 he discovered the Femez diving apparatus and worked with Femez to develop the free flow Fernez - Le Prieur scuba system which featured a compressed air cylinder on the divers back.
In 1933 he patented the Le Prieur scuba system which featured an adjustable free flow system with the cylinder located at the divers front. Using this system he started filming underwater and giving diving exhibitions. In 1935 he and film maker Jean Painleve opened the scuba diving Club des Sous I'Eau in Paris. They gave a Grand Gala in 1936 featuring 33 club members diving, seven of who were women and one who was a 5 year old girl.
He went on to develop several other items of diving equipment including a demand regulator in 1946, and published his book Premier de Plongee (First to Dive) in 1956. The International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame holds a copy of this book in its collection.
Benoit Rouquayrol & Auguste Denayrouze
Benoit Rouquayrol was born in Espalion, France on June 13,1826. He started his studies in Espalion, then followed on to college in Rodez, and then on to the School of Mines in Saint-Etienne. He later became a mining engineer at the private company Houilleres and Fonderies of Aveyron.
Rouquayrol quickly climbed the company's administrative ladder and became the director in 1865. During this period there were many mine collapses and disasters, often with fatalities. Rouquayrol took an active role in mine safety issues and paid particular interest to the problem of saving the lives of miners who were trapped in collapsed tunnels that were often filled with toxic gasses.
The miners' means of protection were very few and none of them could be used to evacuate the miners caught in the layers of gas without putting the rescuers from the surface in peril. The rescuers did not have a way to safely penetrate into the mines immediately after an incident. They often had to wait a long period of time for natural ventilation to clear the toxic gases, and by that time, it was often too late to resuscitate the victims. Aware of this tragic situation, Rouquayrol set about developing and constructing an apparatus which permitted rescuers to penetrate the mines while being able to breath normally. In his pursuit of this goal he first invented a demand regulator which was granted a patent on April 14,1860. It was this regulator, combined with his later inventions, and adapted with the assistance of Auguste Denayrouze, that would become a production diving unit that had the capabilities to be used as a self-contained underwater breathing unit — SCUBA.
On the January 16,1862, Rouquayrol was granted a second patent for another apparatus called the Rouquayrol Isolation equipment, which was a low pressure reservoir. The demand regulator would attach to this reservoir making a single back pack unit. On August 25,1863, he received a third patent for a water cooled pump that supplied air to the reservoir and regulator backpack. The pump also featured a novel hydraulic sealing design which greatly improved its efficiency.
When the three patented items Rouquayrol had created were combined, they formed a pumped air supply to a reservoir, which held the compressed air, from which the wearer could breath by demand through the regulator mouth piece. The reservoir could also be pressurised by the pump, and then detached from it, allowing the wearer to have a self-contained air supply with which he could travel further than the restrictive length of the pump hose. Rouquayrol also made the first test dives with the system.
Auguste Denayrouze was bom on October 1,1837, in Giscard, in the community of Montpeyroux, France. He entered the French navy training program in 1851 and served in the Crimean war. His commanding officer wrote of him, "This young man is very gifted for a career in the navy. Very intelligent, very studious, thoughtful, steady, zealous, he learns with a wonderful easy facility. He serves admirably. He promises to be a distinguished officer."
On October 8,1862, he was promoted to Ships Lieutenant. His career was stifled in 1864 when he contracted a grave chest infection. He was declared unfit for service on the high seas, and was put on a three-year temporary leave. Denayrouze went to Espalion to recuperate, and there discovered the new inventions of Rouquayrol, whom he knew well as their families were related. Denayrouze was enthusiastic about his friend's apparatus as he could see how this equipment, that was designed for saving lives in the mines, could be adapted to Navy needs. Denayrouze moved to Paris, and there he actively helped in the manufacturing of the first breathing apparatus given by Rouquayrol to a Parisian Aveyronais artisan named Aygalenc. He also helped with ideas for certain modifications.
Denayrouze was soon in constant communication with Benoit Rouquayrol via mail, as they worked on the technical details of the breathing apparatus. With his navy connections he was able to get the new diving system onto a navy salvage job. The system worked well and Denayrouze committed himself to developing it. He took charge of the marketing, put up 10,000 Francs and also raised 20,000 Francs from an Espalion businessman, Camille Marcilhacy. With 30,000 Francs at their disposal, the newly funded partnership of Rouquayrol - Denayrouze, in collaboration with Marcilhacy, set out on a manufacturing and design path that would make diving history. After Benoit Rouquayrol passed away, Denayrouze operated the company under his own name, and the Denayrouze company went on to amass a financial fortune providing gas lights to illuminate French streets.
Hugh Bradner was born in Nevada, in 1915. He received his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology in 1941 and went on to work with J. Robert Oppenhiemer in The Manhattan Project, developing the first atomic bomb.
In 1946 Bradner took a position at U.C. Berkeley that required him to dive. He consulted with U.S.N. frogmen on their experiences of loss of body heat and investigated the concept of thermal protection using a suit of insulated foam material which trapped water that warmed to the body's temperature.
The material was neoprene. He worked on developing the new suit in the basement of his family's home in Berkeley.
By 1952 he had perfected his concept using neoprene and he and other engineers founded the Engineering Development Company (EDCO) in order to develop the wetsuit. Bradner and his colleagues tested several versions and prototypes of the wetsuit at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. Bradner applied for a U.S. patent for the wetsuit, but his patent application was turned down due to its similar design with a flight suit.
The United States Navy did not adopt the new wetsuits because of worries that the neoprene might make its swimmers easier to spot by underwater sonar.
In 1961 Bradner joined the Scripps Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics as a geophysicist. He became a full professor in 1963 and retired in 1980. Bradner never patented his invention and never benefitted from it financially.
Others divers went on to develop successful neoprene wetsuit product lines for diving and surfing. His invention of the wet suit was a giant leap forward for diving and was adopted around the globe.
Hugh Bradner died in San Diego, California in 2008.
Louis Marie de Corlieu was born in 1888 and at a very young age displayed a great interest in the ocean. He joined the French Navy, studied different themes of propulsion and saw service during World War I.
During his naval work he pursued his interest in thermal protection against exposure to the sea, and he started to develop items using rubber. This field of interest eventually lead him to develop the swim fin, which was originally called a swimming propeller.
On June 2,1933 he filed for a patent in Paris and registered his invention in seven other countries. Both the French and British Admiralties rejected his fins, but they quickly became popular with swimmers and were also adopted by Commandant Yves Le Prieur for use with this scuba system.
The marriage of De Corlieu's fins with Le Prieur's scuba in 1935 heralded the arrival of the free swimming scuba diver. In 1938, de Corlieu's friend Henri Lombard took some fins to Tahiti where Owen Churchill, an American Olympic yachtsman, saw them. Within two years Churchill had located de Corlieu in Algeria and obtained the manufacturing rights for the fin.
The Churchill fin became one of the vital pieces of diving equipment that launched both the sport of recreational diving and also combat diving.
de Corlieu passed away on October 19,1971.
John Scott Haldane was born in 1860 into an affluent Scottish family, Haldane spent his life in the research of respiratory physiology. He became famous for locking himself in sealed chambers breathing lethal cocktails of gasses while recording their effects on his body and mind. Haldane acquired a degree in medicine from Edinburgh University in 1884.
In 1887 he joined is uncle at Oxford University but later left when the title Professor of Physiology was denied him. His early studies included the respiration hazards that coal miners were exposed to, and his report emphasized the lethal effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. In 1898 he created the Haldane Gas Apparatus.
He began to study caisson disease in underground workers which connected to decompression sickness, also commonly known as "the bends." His work in this field lead him to produce the tables for staged decompression, which prevented the development of nitrogen bubbles in the diver's tissue as they ascended from their working depth.
Haldane's approach was in contrast to French physiologist Paul Bert's continuous - ascent decompression procedures of that period. Although developed for the trade of diving in 1907, the staged tables are equally applicable in the recreational and technical diving fields. Engineers sought his opinion on ventilation and respiratory issues when designing submarines, tunnels, mines and ships.
In 1915 Yale University honored Haldane by selecting him to deliver the Silliman Lectures. The lectures became the basis for his 1922 book Respiration, which is recognized as a landmark work in the field. Haldane received numerous awards and honors for his work.
He died in 1936.
Ted Eldred was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1920 and is a pioneer of scuba diving in Australia having invented Porpoise scuba gear. As a young man, he lived by the sea near Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula just south of Melbourne. Ted started snorkeling as soon as mask, fins and snorkel were avail bale, and wished that he could make or obtain some sort of free-swimming breathing set, until World War II intervened. After World War II in the late 1940s, he designed a sport diving oxygen rebreather.
The French-designed open circuit Scuba, called the Aqua Lung, was protected by US patent and international patents, so Eldred set about designing the Porpoise CA (a prototype) - the world's first single hose regulator. Ted Eldred was recognized later in life, by the Historical Divers Society (South-East Asia Pacific), as the inventor of the first successful commercially produced single hose scuba. The single hose scuba is the type in use around the world today.
Ted Eldred passed away in August of 2005 and is survived by his son and daughter. We recognize his accomplishments as a true pioneer of Scuba diving.
Maurice Fenzy developed and manufactured the first production Buoyancy Compensator (BC) which became the standard safety vest design throughout the world.
In 1961, Maurice Fenzy patented a device invented by the underwater research group of the French Navy. The device includes an inflatable bag with a small attached cylinder of compressed air. It became the first commercially successful buoyancy compensator. Within a few years, diver throughout Europe, and a few well-traveled Americans, were wearing "Fenzys", an adjustable buoyancy life jacket (ABLJ) which is fitted around the neck and onto the chest, secured by straps around the waist and usually between the legs. They are sometimes referred to as "horse collars" because of their resemblance, and are historically derived from Mae West life jackets issued to World War II flyers.
As they were developed in the 1960s, they have been largely superseded by wing and vest type BCs, primarily because of their tenancy to shift the diver's center of gravity with inflation. The ABLJ's location on the diver's chest means that it does the best job of all BC designs when it comes to floating a distressed, fatigued or unconscious diver face-up on the surface in the event of a problem.
Max "Gene" Nohl, was a salvage diver, adventurer, and graduate of MIT. In the winter of 1937, this Milwaukee native tested the suit and pioneered a helium/oxygen breathing mixtures in a record breaking 420 ft. dive to the bottom of Lake Michigan. The helium/oxygen mixture idea was co-developed with Dr. Edgar End of the Marquette School of Medicine. "The Deepest Dive" made international news and its young diver was suddenly a celebrity. Nohl immediately announced plans to dive the wreck of the Lusitania and film the entire adventure as a feature documentary.
The previous summer had brought the veteran salvage diver to the pyramids of Rock Lake in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. He made a series of dives in the late summer and toward the end of his last dive, he came across a tall pyramidal structure made of densely fitted small rocks. The undersea structures of Rock Lake now remain a mystery and are the subject of ongoing research.
Paul Bert was a pioneer in the field of physiology researching oxygen toxicity and decompression sickness. His classical work, La Pression Barometrique, was published in 1878 and is the foundation of research into diving physiology.
Bert was born in France in 1833. He studied physiology at the Ecole Polytechnique at Paris. After graduation as doctor of medicine in 1863, and doctor of science in 1866, he was appointed professor of physiology successively at Bordeaux and the Sorbonne. He studied the effects of altitude on hot air balloonists and was also interested in what happened to blood gasses when people were exposed to greater than normal pressures. This led him to study divers and the phenomenon of decompression sickness.
From his studies, he determined that the high external pressures the divers experienced forced large quantities of nitrogen gas from the atmosphere to dissolve in their blood. When the external pressure was relieved as the diver surfaced, this nitrogen came out of the blood stream in the form of bubbles. These bubbles blocked the capillaries (the smallest blood vessels) causing the bends.
He compiled his findings into a book, La Pression baromeetrique: recherches de physiologic expeerimentale. In 1943 the book was published in English. Bert's work provided a foundation for the development of diving and aviation medicine. Later it served as a starting point in early aerospace research on the effects of changes in pressure on astronauts.
Decima MAS was the world's first underwater combat unit that used scuba equipment and also rode on manned torpedoes. The idea of this type of combat torpedo was furnished from previous manned torpedo actions that occurred in World War One.
However, it was the Italian Decima MAS, 10th Light Flotilla, formed in 1940, that perfected this type of underwater warfare. The 10th Light Flotilla was responsible for 28 ships sunk or damaged in World War Two, including the battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Valiant, cruiser HMS York and over 100,000 tons of merchant shipping.
The Decima MAS frogmen were not only deadly, but also very ingenious in their methods of attack. The feats of these Italian frogmen brought much envy and respect from the British Navy, who had to develop their own scuba team to combat the Italians. It is rumored that when the British created its own naval assault units, the trainees placed pictures of Decima MAS on their walls for inspiration. Winston Churchill went on record recognizing Decima MAS for their "Extraordinary courage and ingenuity."
The unit is the forerunner of all international underwater combat units including the US Seal Teams.