The answer to when was scuba diving invented can only be sufficiently answered by taking a look at how underwater human exploration has evolved over the centuries, and the inventions that have been made along the way.
Source: A Brief History of Diving
Historical underwater exploration
The history of scuba diving dates back to Ancient Greece. During this period, self-contained underwater breathing apparatus(SCUBA) equipment had not yet been invented, but human beings had already started exploring underwater. In his writings, Aristotle talks about how the Greeks had divers whose job was to collect sea sponges. To help them breathe under water, a bell filled with air was lowered to the diver after every few minutes, then brought up to be refilled with oxygen. It is also reported that Alexander the Great used these diving bells for his own underwater exploration. In the 1700s, a scientist named Sieur Freminet invented a diving bell that could recycle the air inside without being constantly refilled.
Scuba diving equipment improved
As time went by, scientists began working on equipment that allowed divers to stay underwater for longer. Such inventions included breathing apparatus that contained enough air for each diver to carry while inside the ocean. The apparatus came in two versions, open circuit and closed circuit.
Open circuit surface supplied equipment worked by carrying oxygen for the diver to inhale. The exhaled carbon dioxide was then released directly into the ocean with every exhalation.
Closed circuit systems filtered any unused oxygen in the exhaled air and recirculated it for the diver to breathe in. Without high pressure gas cylinders, divers were limited to certain ocean depths, because oxygen gets toxic with increased depth. High pressure cylinders later came into play in the mid-1900s.
During the world wars, countries invested in scuba diving research and development to help in the use of frogmen during war. Multiple advancements were made, including improving rebreather technology to purify carbon dioxide and allow divers to stay longer underwater. The cylinders were attached to a diver’s body using simple harnesses that were later improved to include a back plate on the diver’s back where the cylinder rests.
One of the most significant inventions of this time was the aqua-lung, the first successful open circuit system that allowed divers to go further into the depths of the ocean.
Ocean exploration and conservation
In addition to the improvement of scuba diving apparatus, exploring the seas became more than just a fascinating adventure, especially in the 20th century. Scientists such as Jacques-Yves Cousteau had come up with inventions that allowed people to go deeper into the ocean, and get a glimpse of sea creatures in their habitat.
Cousteau began using waterproof filming equipment to create documentaries about sea life, and how human beings were interacting with ocean creatures. During his exploration, Jacques-Yves also became passionate about conserving sea creatures. He fought against harmful practices like the dumping of nuclear waste in the ocean, as well as commercial whaling. His foundation continues to work towards sea conservation to this day.
Today, scuba diving is a highly recreational sport, allowing people to see the depths of the oceans and creatures that live there. It has also allowed scientists to carry out research on water ecosystems. Environmentalists are able to look out for any dangers posed to sea creatures by using scuba diving equipment.
Source: Future Of Scuba Diving