The following timeline summarizes the evolution of submarine design, from the submarine's beginning as a human-powered warship to today's nuclear powered subs.
David Bushnell builds the one-man human powered Turtle submarine. The Colonial Army attempted to sink the British warship HMS Eagle with the Turtle. The first submarine to dive, surface and be used in Naval combat, its intended purpose was to break the British naval blockade of New York harbor during the American Revolution. With slight positive buoyancy, it floated with approximately six inches of exposed surface. Turtle was powered by a hand-driven propeller. The operator would submerge under the target, and using a screw projecting from the top of Turtle, he would attach a clock-detonated explosive charge.
Robert Fulton builds the Nautilus submarine which incorporates two forms of power for propulsion - a sail while on the surface and a hand-cranked screw while submerged.
John P. Holland introduces the Holland VII and later the Holland VIII (1900). The Holland VIII with its petroleum engine for surface propulsion and electric engine for submerged operations served as the blueprint adopted by all the world's navies for submarine design up to 1914.
1904The French submarine Aigette is the first submarine built with a diesel engine for surface propulsion and electric engine for submerged operations. Diesel fuel is less volatile than petroleum and is the preferred fuel for current and future conventionally powered submarine designs.
1944The German U-791 uses Hydrogen Peroxide as an alternative fuel source.
The U.S. launches the USS Nautilus - the world's first nuclear powered submarine. Nuclear power enables submarines to become true "submersibles" - able to operate underwater for an indefinite period of time. The development of the Naval nuclear propulsion plant was the work of a team Navy, government and contractor engineers led by Captain Hyman G. Rickover.
The U.S. introduces the USS Albacore with a "tear drop" hull design to reduce underwater resistance and allow greater submerged speed and maneuverability. The first submarine class to use this new hull design is the USS Skipjack.