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An Irishman invented the first submarine

John Philip Holland (24 February 1841 – 12 August 1914) was an Irish engineer who developed the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the US Navy, and the first Royal Navy submarine, Holland 1.

Born in Liscannor Co. Clare, Holland joined the Irish Christian Brothers in Limerick and taught in Limerick (CBS Sexton Street) and many other centres in the country including Cork City, Portlaoise, St Joseph’s CBS (Drogheda) and as the first Mathematics teacher in Colaiste Ris (Dundalk). Holland emigrated to the United States in 1873. Initially working for an engineering firm, he returned to teaching again for a further six years in St. John’s Catholic school in Paterson, New Jersey. While a teacher in Cork, Holland read an account of the battle between the ironclads Monitor and Merrimack during the American Civil War. He realised that the best way to attack such ships would be through an attack beneath the waterline. He drew a design, but when he attempted to obtain funding, he was turned away. In 1875, his first submarine designs were submitted for consideration by the US Navy but turned down as unworkable.

Not to be kept away from his dream, Holland continued to improve his designs and worked on several experimental boats, prior to his successful efforts with a privately built type, launched on 17 May 1897. This was the first submarine having power to run submerged for any considerable distance, and the first to combine electric motors for submerged travel and gasoline engines for use on the surface. She was purchased by the US Navy, on 11 April 1900, after rigorous tests and was commissioned on 12 October 1900 as USS Holland. Now that calls for a celebration!