John Philip Holland

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Everyone knows how important the submarine is today, but not many people know that it was an Irishman who invented it!

John Philip Holland was born in Co. Clare in 1841. He joined the Christian Brothers for a short time and taught in many schools around the country. He had a keen interest in science, the sea and flying. During his time with the Christian Brothers, he even drew up designs for an aeroplane!

John Holland in his submarine
Courtesy of An Post

While Holland was in Cork, he began to sketch designs for a submarine, and he finished his first draft in 1859. He believed that submarines would be the most important ships for warfare of the future, as they would be able to get close to the enemy without been seen.

After he left the Christian Brothers in 1873, he moved to Boston, America. Holland sent his design for the submarine to the American Navy, but it was turned down. However, he found funding from Irish Fenians who wanted to use the submarine against British forces, and his first submarine was built in 1877.

Eventually, Holland won a submarine design competition, and the John Holland Torpedo Boat Company was set up in 1896. He went on to sell his designs to the British Navy, he sold two submarines to Japan. These helped the Japanese to win the war with Russia in 1904-5.

He died in 1914 and is buried in New Jersey, close to where he launched his very first submarine. He is known as ‘father of the submarine’.