Holland, John Philip

John Philip Holland (1841 - 1914)

John Philip Holland, inventor of the modern submarine, was born on 24 February 1841 in Liscannor, County Clare, the son of John Holland, a coastguard, and Mary Scanlon. Educated at Ennistymon and Limerick C.B.S. and taught in a number of their schools in Ireland, but in 1872 he emigrated with his family to America.

He had become interested at an early age in the possibility of constructing submersible boats and, as an Irish patriot, saw how they might be used against the ships of the British navy in the fight for Irish independence. From 1870 Holland developed his projected submarine and offered it to the United States Navy. Following its rejection, the Fenians in America financed his first experimental one-man craft and this was tested with some success in 1878. They then gave him a further substantial sum to build a full-size submarine and the Fenian Ram was completed in 1881 and was extensively tested in the waters of New York harbour and in 1883 dived to a depth of 60 feet.

In 1895 the J. P. Holland Torpedo Boat Company was awarded a contract for $150,000 to build a submarine for the United States. The Plunger was, however, not built to his specification, the navy insisting on incorporating its own ideas, and it was not a success. With only $5000 of his own capital left he began to build the Holland to his own design, 54 feet in length, 10 feet in diameter and with a submerged displacement of 75 tons. It was fitted with a petrol engine for surface propulsion and electric storage batteries and motor for running submerged. Armed with one torpedo tube and a pneumatic dynamite gun, it was launched in 1898 and, after searching tests, was purchased in 1900 by the United States government.

To Holland, therefore, belongs the credit for developing the submarine to a state of practical utility.

Holland was married on 17 January 1887 in Brooklyn, New York, to Margaret Foley of Paterson, New Jersey. He died on 12 August 1914 in Newark, New Jersey, survived by his wife and four children.

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