« Invention & Technology Magazine | Main | Urban windmills harm the environment »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.



Using wood would seem primitive and unsafe. However, a wooden frame on a submarine is quite an obvious solution in a region (Catalonia) used to keep liquids (fine wines and olive oil) inside wooden barrels. Making big watertight barrels is a quite sophisticated technology and the level of craftsmanship available in this region was not to be taken lightly. Any local would have felt safer inside a wooden barrel than in an iron one. If given the choice, many wouldn't have minded dying inside a wine cask, unfortunately the Ictineo was quite dry. As for the copper, its only purpose was to keep shipworms (teredo navalis) from eating the hull and it was normal practice in wooden vessels. It did not provide any structural support.



Beautiful, interesting technology. Something tells me that poor technology management is still an issue today. I wonder if a few failures at the start, heroically overcome, would've increased public standing to the point that funding would've become easier to obtain?

I don't think a fleet of submarines alone might've turned the war, but the military's reluctance to even evaluate new technology I would mark as symptomatic to a general failure to keep up with the rest of the world.

There's a reason DARPA spends so much on whackjob tech experiments. Even if they get plenty of stuff horribly wrong most of the time and even if it all turns out to be generally inefficient, at least they're working on pushing the envelope. Same thing with the rest of their military. That part of their core business they understand very well, and these guys did not.



It is always a delight to see that the Victorians felt that technology could be beautiful to see as well as utilitarian.

David Butera

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Let's build our own internet

News & Links


Fruit Walls

  • Fruit walls
  • Urban Farming in the 1600s
    From the 16th to the 20th century, urban farmers grew Mediterranean fruits and vegetables as far north as England and the Netherlands, using only renewable energy.

The Chinese Wheelbarrow

  • Chinese wheelbarrow
  • How to downsize a transport network: the Chinese wheelbarrow
    For being such a seemingly ordinary vehicle, the wheelbarrow has a surprisingly exciting history. This is especially true in the East, where it became a universal means of transportation for both passengers and goods, even over long distances.

Wood Gas Vehicles

  • Wood gas cars 2
  • Firewood in the Fuel Tank: Wood Gas Vehicles
    Wood gas cars are a not-so-elegant but surprisingly efficient and ecological alternative to their petrol (gasoline) cousins, whilst their range is comparable to that of electric cars.

Open Modular Hardware

  • Open modular hardware2
  • How to make everything ourselves: open modular hardware
    Consumer products based on an open modular system can foster rapid innovation, without the drawback of wasting energy and materials. The parts of an obsolete generation of products can be used to design the next generation, or something completely different.

Power from the Tap

  • Water motors
  • Power from the Tap: Water Motors
    Just before the arrival of electricity at the end of the 19th century, miniature water turbines were connected to the tap and could power any machine that is now driven by electricity.

Aerial Ropeways

Other Languages

  • Some articles have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. Find them here.