Holland, John Philip

Holland, John Philip
SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
b. 29 February 1840 Liscanor, Co. Clare, Ireland
d. 12 August 1915 Newark, New Jersey, USA
Irish/American inventor of the successful modern submarine
Holland was educated first in his native town and later in Limerick, a seaport bustling with coastal trade ships. His first job was that of schoolteacher, and as such he worked in various parts of Ireland until he was about 32 years old. A combination of his burning patriotic zeal for Ireland and his interest in undersea technology (then in its infancy) made him consider designs for underwater warships for use against the British Royal Navy in the fight for Irish independence. He studied all known works on the subject and commenced drawing plans, but he was unable to make real headway owing to a lack of finance.
In 1873 he travelled to the United States, ultimately settling in New Jersey and continuing in the profession of teaching. His work on submarine design continued, but in 1875 he suffered a grave setback when the United States Navy turned down his designs. Help came from an unexpected source, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, or Fenian Society, which had been founded in Dublin and New York in 1858. Financial help enabled Holland to build a 4 m (13 ft) one-person craft, which was tested in 1878, and then a larger boat of 19 tonnes' displacement that was tested with a crew of three to depths of 20 m (65 ft) in New York's harbour in 1883. Known as the Fenian Ram, it embodied most of the principles of modern submarines, including weight compensation. The Fenians commandeered this boat, but they were unable to operate it satisfactorily and it was relegated to history.
Holland continued work, at times independently and sometimes with others, and continuously advocated submarines to the United States Navy. In 1895 he was successful in winning a contract for US$150,000 to build the US Submarine Plunger at Baltimore. With too much outside interference, this proved an unsatisfactory venture. However, with only US$5,000 of his capital left, Holland started again and in 1898 he launched the Holland at Elizabeth, New Jersey. This 16 m (52 ft) vessel was successful, and in 1900 it was purchased by the United States Government.
Six more boats were ordered by the Americans, and then some by the Russians and the Japanese. The British Royal Navy ordered five, which were built by Vickers Son and Maxim (now VSEL) at Barrow-in-Furness in the years up to 1903, commencing their long run of submarine building. They were licensed by another well-known name, the Electric Boat Company, which had formerly been the J.P.Holland Torpedo Boat Company.
Holland now had some wealth and was well known. He continued to work, trying his hand at aeronautical research, and in 1904 he invented a respirator for use in submarine rescue work. It is pleasing to record that one of his ships can be seen to this day at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport: HM Submarine Holland No. 1, which was lost under tow in 1913 but salvaged and restored in the 1980s.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Order of the Rising Sun, Japan, 1910.
1900, "The submarine boat and its future", North American Review (December). Holland wrote several other articles of a similar nature.
Further Reading
R.K.Morris, 1966 John P.Holland 1841–1914, Inventor of the Modern Submarine, Annapolis, MD: US Naval Institute.
F.W.Lipscomb, 1975, The British Submarine, London: Conway Maritime Press. A.N.Harrison, 1979, The Development of HM Submarines from Holland No. 1 (1901) to
Porpoise (1930), Bath: MoD Ships Department (internal publication).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Holland, John Philip — ▪ American inventor born Feb. 29, 1840, Liscannor, County Clare, Ire. died Aug. 12, 1914, Newark, N.J., U.S.       father of the modern submarine, who designed and built the first underwater vessel accepted by the U.S. Navy.       Educated at… …   Universalium

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