Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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Simon Lake

Simon Lake, the inventor of the modern submarine, attended the Toms River Schools for several years. Although Lake's early schooling was in Pleasantville, N.J. and later Camden and Philadelphia, he states in his autobiography SUBMARINE, "In 1881 we moved to Toms River, New Jersey, from Philadelphia, and for awhile I lived a charmed life. I sailed boats, drew plans, worked with tools .... at this time I studied Steel's Natural Philosophy and learned all about the diving bell."

He also writes, "When I first conceived the idea of the submarine, as a school boy in Toms River, New Jersey, I was fascinated by my idea of the diving compartment." He goes on to say, "My little Argonaut had been planned only for submersions to a shallow depth in the waters around Toms River."

Born in Pleasantville, N.J., September 4, 1866, Simon Lake grew up to be a naval architect and mechanical engineer. He was the inventor of the even keel type of submarine torpedo boat; built the first experimental boat, 1894; built the Argonaut in 1897 (the first submarine to operate successfully in the open sea); designed and built many submarine torpedo boats for the U.S. and foreign countries; and spent several years in Russia, Germany and England designing, building, and acting in an advisory capacity in construction of submarine torpedo boats. Simon Lake also was the inventor of submarine apparatus for locating and recovering sunken vessels and their cargoes, submarine apparatus for pearl and sponge fishing, and a heavy oil internal combustion engine for marine purposes. He was president of the Lake Submarine Co., The Lake Engineering Co., Lake Submarine Salvage Corp. and several other related companies.

Although Simon Lake is not credited with the basic idea of a submerged vessels (there are records of underwater vessels developed during the revolution and several types attempted during the Civil War by the Southerners), his Argonaut was the first entirely successful submarine. It was designed with twin screws and a double hull, the space between the inner and outer hulls being filled with water when submerged. His invention introduced the ideas of hydroplanes controlling the depth to which the submarine should submerge and keeping it on an even keel while under water. His invention pioneered the thinking, the principle and the basic design for the engineering of the modern submarine that can be maneuvered and controlled with exacting position under water.

The fascinating and detailed story of Lake's efforts to design and build his submarine for the U.S. Government is told in Genealogy of the Lake Family.

At the beginning of World War I, the U.S. went into extensive submarine production, putting Lake's submarine designs and ideas to full use.

Simon Lake died June 6, 1945, after having taken out nearly 100 patents during his life. At the age of 75 he was still working as a consultant to the U.S. Navy during World War II.

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