Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol

The Catalan Inventor of the First Manned Submarine

Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol was born in Figueres in the Alt Empordà on September 28th 1819 and died in Sant Martí de Provençals in Barcelona on September 6th 1885, best known as inventor of the first manned submarine powered by a combustion engine.

After completing a Law degree at the University of Lleida in 1845, Monturiol became involved in politics, more specifically Utopian Socialism as proposed by Etienne Cabet, with whom he corresponded.

He became one of the leading Cabetians in Spain and, in 1847, founded the magazine La Fraternidad in order to promote Icarian ideas.

Following the revolution of 1848, he was forced into exile in France, from where he was also expelled for political activities and he ended up in Cadaqués on the Costa Brava.

In Cadaqués, watching the difficult work of coral divers led Monturiol to reflect on the idea of submarine navigation and on returning to Barcelona in 1857, he founded the company Monturiol, Font, Altadill y Cía.





Ictíneo I and II

Monturiol's first submarine protype, the Ictíneo, was presented in the Port of Barcelona unofficially on June 28th 1859 and officially on September 23rd the same year, where the manned combustion-engine-poered submarine remained submerged at a depth of 20 metres for two hours and twenty minutes.

THe royal presentation before Isabel II and navy official was held in the Port of Alicante on March 7th 1861 but, although the project provoked popular enthusiasm, government funding never arrived.

Monturiol managed to obtain 300,000 pesetas, mainly from public donations, and developed the more sophisticated Ictíneo II, which used an anaerobic system of propulsion and was presented in the Port of Barcelona on October 2nd 1864.

The project failed to obtain government funding once again and Monturiol's company, La Navegación Submarina, went bankrupt in 1867.

Monturiol dedicated the rest of his life to politics and became a deputy to the Spanish Congress for the Republican Party in 1868 and was national director of Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre during the First Spanish Republic.

Narcís Monturiol died in poverty in Sant Martí dels Provençals in Barcelona in 1885 and the description of his great contribution to modern science is explained in his posthumously published Ensayo sobre el arte de navegar por debajo del agua or Essay on the art of navigating under water.



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