That essential item of equipment – lifesaving no less – that you wear whenever you scuba dive; where did it get its name, and what does Scuba stand for? You wouldn’t be the first person to enjoy scuba diving without indulging in the history of Scuba, so here’s a brief article that might help from Ocean Scuba Dive!
What Does SCUBA Stand For?
SCUBA is an acronym – a word made up of letters that each mean something – and stands for the following: Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. For the record, it is now acceptable to write the word as scuba, without capitals, so that’s how we will write it from now! But where did scuba come from, and how did it get its name?
The History of Scuba
The apparatus we know as scuba now was originally named the ‘Aqua-Lung’, a term still used but less so these days. The aqua-lung was invented in 1943 by the famous diver Jacques Cousteau, whose exploits became well-known via his appearances on television in later years, and an associate by the name of Emile Gagnan. The device remains, today, not far removed from its basic design then.
It was no surprise that the military – of many countries – saw the benefits of the aqua-lung very quickly, and began working on their own versions. Divers had been utilized in military arenas on many occasions, with frequently impressive results, and the US military in particular saw that a way of being able to breathe underwater would be of major strategic advantage.
They began to look at improved versions, and the first prototypes designed specifically for military frogmen were designed and manufactured at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. It was here that, in 1954, that Dr. Christian Lambertsen – one of the designers of the prototypes – coined the term that became the acronym SCUBA. The rest, as they say, is history! Find out more about Christian Lambertsen and the Secret Story Behind Scuba.
Improved Scuba Design
In fact, Lambertsen and his team improved on the original aqua-lung quite considerably, with the use of enriched-air nitrox being one of his innovations, and is often forgotten as being the father of what we call the modern scuba apparatus in the shadow of the more famous Cousteau, who became something of a media celebrity in later years. The American’s contributions to this most important part of diving equipment should not be overlooked.
Lambertsen’s dedication and focus towards breathing certain gases was ground-breaking – we use a scuba device much the same now as his military ‘rebreather’ was used then – and he was also very much a pioneer in the understanding of the importance of decompression, which remains vital to the well-being of scuba divers to this day.
There can be few items of equipment that have proven as essential to their intended users as the scuba. This simple yet very versatile device continues to be used commercially, in military circles and for leisure purposes and will do so for many years to come, so each time you dive, remember you owe your safety to the work of Dr. Lambertsen all those years ago.