Simon Lake and the Argonaut

Simon Lake's Argonaut Submarine

Simon Lake’s Argonaut Submarine


On September 4, 1866, American mechanical engineer and naval architect Simon Lake was born. Lake obtained over two hundred patents for advances in naval design and competed with John Philip Holland to build the first submarines for the United States Navy. His submarine, the Argonaut, was the first to make extensive open-sea operations and to salvage cargo from sunken vessels.

Simon Lake was the grandson of Simon Lake, one of the founders of Atlantic City and Ocean City, New Jersey. Lake and his brothers built the first highway and bridge to Atlantic City and were instrumental in having the first railroads established to both cities. The grandson Simon Lake was educated at the High School of Toms River, New Jersey and later attended the Clinton Liberal Institute, Fort Plain, N.Y. At the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Simon Lake attended a mechanical course.

It is believed that Simon Lake was highly influenced by the works of Jules Verne, especially Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea which is said to have inspired Lake to design and submit plans to the Navy around 1892. The Argonaut Jr. was the first experimental submarine, built by Simon Lake in 1894. It was first successfully demonstrated at Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey by Sandy Hook. Due to the success, the engineer founded the Lake Submarine Company of New Jersey in 1895. The company’s first built submarine was the Argonaut. It became also the first known submarine to be able to operate in the open sea in 1898, and which probably drew a congratulatory telegram from Jules Verne.

In 1901, The Lake Torpedo Boat Company was formed in New Jersey, which became the main company that built numerous submarines for the United States and foreign countries. Simon Lake served as president and general manager until 1916, and then vice-president and consulting engineer. In 1917, Simon Lake became president of The Housatonic Shipbuilding Company, building vessels for the United States Shipping Board. Lake further served as president of The Merchant Submarine Company and The Lake Heat Engine Company, which has built two very successful experimental heavy oil reversible internal combustion engines (diesel).

The mechanical engineer and naval architect Simon Lake is credited with the development of groundbreaking submarine technologies for the safe and successful operation of the submarine. These technologies include even-keel hydroplanes, ballast tanks, divers’ compartment, periscope, and the twin-hull design.

At yovisto, you can learn more about submarines in the 1956 video Science in Action: Submarines Part I and Part II.

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