Augustus Siebe – The father of Deep Sea Diving
In the year 1837 German-born inventor Augustus Siebe, living in England, developed a Diving Helmet which was sealed to a watertight, air-containing rubber suit. The closed diving suit, connected to an air pump on the surface, becomes the first effective standard diving dress, and the prototype of hard-hat rigs still in use today. In his obituary Siebe is described as the father of diving.
Siebe Gorman & Co Ltd
Siebe Gorman & Co Ltd was a British company which developed diving equipment and breathing equipment and worked on commercial diving and marine salvage projects. The company advertised itself as ‘Submarine Engineers’. It was founded by Augustus Siebe and his son-in-law, Gorman.
Siebe Gorman & Co was notable for developing the “closed” diving helmet of the standard diving dress and associated equipment. As the helmet was sealed to the diving suit, it was watertight, unlike the previous “open” helmet systems. The new equipment was safer and more efficient and revolutionised underwater work from the 1830s.
Standard diving suit equipment was their main manufacturing operation, producing diving helmets in copper and brass. They also made frogman’s equipment for the British armed forces during World War 2, and later, sport scuba gear. See makes of rebreather.
Heinke Ltd in London also made diving gear and had connections with Siebe Gorman.
Augstus Siebe (1788–April 15, 1872) was a German-born British engineer chiefly known for his contributions to diving equipment. Born in Saxony (Prussia) in 1788, little is known of his early years. He learned metalworking in Berlin and was an engineer and worked as an artillery officer in the army. After the battle at Waterloo he emigrated to England to settle in London as a precision engineer. He turned out to be at the right place at the right time. The economy was at her top in the middle of the 19th century.
In 1828 Siebe got a patent on a rotating water pump. Sales numbers were formidable and Siebe had his first financial success. He moved to 5 Denmark street in Soho London. Siebe got married, had 9 children and his company went very well.
Around 1834 the Deane brothers consult Augustus Siebe to turn their “smoke helmet” into a real divers helmet. This helmet was succesfully used by Charles Deane in many salvage operations. He was not the only one, other divers used the Deane equipment as well. It was a young and clever engineer, George Edwards. After using the Deane gear for over a year, he suggested safety improvements.
His idea was to dress the diver in a full dress (instead of a short jacket) and clamp this dress, by means of 20 bolts, to the breastplate. Thus, the helmet could never flood again, even if the diver would stand on his head. The only thing Edwards wanted to reach was to improve safety underwater. Fot this reason he gave Siebe the full and free use of his diving dress design in 1838. Edwards did not take out a patent.
In 1839, Siebe produced the first diving helmet and dress, based on Edwards’ design. He used 12 equally spaced bolts to clamp the full dress to the breastplate. This was a huge success. In 1840, the helmet was used by the Royal Navy on the wreck of the Royal George. The diving team, lead by Colonel Pasley, was very satisfied with Siebe’s helmet. More than they were with Deane’s helmet. Pasley too suggested some improvements to the helmet. He suggested to seperate the bonnet and the breastplate by means of an interrupted thread facility. Siebe took over the advise and thus the basic design for all later diving helmets was born which was manufactured by Siebe Gorman & Co for many years.
* The first open dress. Air could circulate free through helmet and dress.
* The first closed dress. Everything was sealed of. There was no risk of filling up with water.
To the millions of diving enthusiasts , Augustus Siebe is known as the Godfather of Diving.
Siebe managed his business together with son in law Gorman – Which is one of the reason for the Company to be called as Siebe Gorman & Co. Also for that reason later nametags carried the name Siebe Gorman and Company on the breastplate of all helmets. The company is no longer in business. It was destroyed by a devastating fire.
Different types were made:
Siebe Gorman and Co manufactured 12 bolt, 8 bolt, 6 bolt, 3 bolt, 2 bolt, no bolt, flange and 12 bolt square corselet.
In some cases helmets were supplied with round side windows, a topflight, an extra air inlet, an extra air outlet on the corselet or corset. There are many different types of Siebe Gorman Helmets and its really difficult to identify each one of them wihtout proper knowledge. He also manufactured diving suits, diving boots, diving knives ( extremely rare), diving pumps among other gears under the same name. We have managed to recover one original catalogue of Siebe Gorman Products. The reproduction is available for purchase – please check our store page for further details.