Argonaut
The Submarine Legacy of Simon Lake
Military History
6 x 9.25, 192 pp.
30 b&w photos., 11 line drawings.
Pub Date: 09/01/1999
West Texas A&M University Series
  cloth
Price:        $24.95

978-0-89096-894-9
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Argonaut

The Submarine Legacy of Simon Lake

By John J. Poluhowich

From the inspired fiction of Jules Verne to the dark menace of the Cold War, submarines have captivated millions for more than a century. Many have been credited for the invention of the submarine, but one significant figure has been seriously overlooked by both historians and the government. Without the efforts of Simon Lake, underwater navigation would be very different from what it is today. Argonaut: The Submarine Legacy of Simon Lake illustrates the influence of Lake's creation and passion.

Simon Lake was the classic American inventor, complete with a rival, John Holland, who reaped most of history's praise for submarine design. However, it was Lake who launched his first working submarine in 1894 at the age of twenty-seven in the rivers of his native New Jersey. In 1898, his steel vessel, the Argonaut, completed a thousand-mile trek up the Atlantic coast. He received accolades from his spiritual mentor, Jules Verne, for his efforts. Despite the potential for government contracts, Lake remained private, using his invention to build up a fortune from underwater salvage.

Questionable governmental trials resulted in navy contracts for submarines being awarded to Lake's rival, the Holland Torpedo Boat Company (later the Electric Boat Company), prompting Lake to build submarines for Russia and Austria. The United States would not request Lake's service until 1908 and would not recognize his contributions to underwater navigation until after his death in 1945. However, there is little doubt that Lake's work helped provide the basis for modern submarine design and construction.

John J. Poluhowich has prepared the most complete biography of Simon Lake, devoting chapters to Lake's early fascination with the idea of underwater navigation, his struggles with design, and disappointment in the government. Argonaut presents Lake as an unsung hero worthy of praise and appreciation from the modern scientific community.

Argonaut is ideal for the general reader, students of history and sea exploration, as well as for anyone inspired by Lake's spirit of imagination and perseverance.

John J. Poluhowich is professor of biology at West Texas A&M University. He has written numerous articles dealing with such topics as submarine history, backpacking, woodcarving, cooking, and natural history.

What Readers Are Saying:

“The result is a book that is strong on details about Lake . . . twenty-nine illustrations are well chosen and clear, and include a number of photographs of early submarine exploits that are fascinating to view.” --International Journal of Maritime History

“Poluhowich has written a solid biography of Simon Lake, long needed to address a glaring weakness in the historiography. It presents a good narrative of the inventor and his work and should be recommended reading for U.S. naval historians.” --The Journal of Military History

“Poluhowich has written an intriguing book on the life and times of this remarkable man. Its research is excellent, with detailed references and thorough documentation of his sources. Simon Lake’s brilliantly inventive activities as described in this book should be interesting to any sea-minded reader, especially this year, the centennial of the founding of the Submarine Force.” --Sea History

“Savage’s journalistic skills have made this more then just a lively and engaging ravel memoir. Rather, it is a valuable resource documenting an important historical junction for a country whose isolation ‘has obscured a history and a people.’ Through her keen eye for detail and nuance, Savage brings to life the struggles of a proud country attempting to define its independence after centuries of rule by outside despots who stifled creative thought and leadership attributes.” --Denver Rocky Mountain News

“. . . John J. Poluhowich’s Argonaut: The Submarine Legacy of Simon Lake, a delightful and long-needed biography. . . . highly readable and well illustrated. . . .” --Sea Power

“. . . a delightful and long-needed biography.” --ALMANAC OF SEAPOWER

“Whether Lake’s activities represented ‘a demoniacal sense of the absurd and a recognition of good theater,’ as on British naval historian claimed, or whether ‘no man in the past century has had as much to do with the shape of history,’ is an argument that is best left to the reader of this fascinating biography.” --Proceedings

“Fascinating biography.” --Proceedings

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