Augustus Siebe, German-born inventor of the closed diving helmet, c 1840.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Oil painting by George Beechey (1817-1852) of Augustus Siebe (1788-1872). Born in Germany, Siebe moved to London in 1816 and produced his first 'closed' diving helmet in 1840. Prior to this divers had relied on 'open' helmets that expelled air at the rim of the helmet. Siebe developed a 'closed' helmet that was bolted to a rubber suit, allowing a pump on the surface to send air down to the diver. This meant that divers could now dive to greater depths than previously posible with les fear of drowning. Siebe's design was still being used by the Royal Navy up until 1989. Siebe also invented a paper-making machine and an ice-making machine, and won many medals at the Great Exhibtion of 1851 and the Paris Exhibition of 1855.