The first ever submarine known to have been constructed went for a dip in the Thames on this date in 1620. It was called the Drebbel, for its designer, Cornelius van Drebbel, a Dutch scientist in the employ of King James I.
Submarines had fascinated engineers and scientists for centuries – at least since Leonardo and maybe before. Some people were interested in the idea of underwater exploration, others saw the opportunity for a truly sneaky weapon, but the Drebbel was the first practical model. For its construction, Cornelius relied on the work of an innkeeper called William Bourne.
Bourne was also a mathematician and had served as a royal navy gunner and written a number of navigational manuals. In 1578, he published some of his ideas in Inventions and Devises, including detailed plans for an underwater vehicle.
Drebbel made a few changes and tried out his leather-covered craft in front of the King and several thousand enthralled Londoners on two occasions. The ship made it from Westminster to Greenwich 12 feet below the surface, powered by half a dozen rowers. Even the King went aboard at one point.
It seems to have been a success, albeit a limited one, but no one could get the Admiralty excited about it. In fact, even though submarines were built and used for the next two hundred years, they weren’t really taken seriously until the technology improved dramatically. Military subs were tried out during our Civil War, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that a diesel-powered sub succeeded both technically and financially.
Clara Weick and Robert Schumann were married on this date in 1840 – in spite of her father. Schumann had politely asked the old man for Clara’s hand in marriage three years earlier, but was emphatically refused. Frederick Weick not only refused, but basically said so sue me and the case did go to court. But eventually Clara turned 21 (tomorrow is her birthday), making it moot and the Schumanns were not only happily wed, but produced seven children and both continued their respective professions. Clara’s career as a concert pianist lasted for 61 years.