Humanities › History & Culture The Evolution of Submarine Design Share Flipboard Email Print Jeff Rotman/Getty Images History & Culture Inventions Invention Timelines Famous Inventions Famous Inventors Patents & Trademarks Computers & The Internet American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Mary Bellis Inventions Expert Mary Bellis covered inventions and inventors for ThoughtCo for 18 years. She is known for her independent films and documentaries, including one about Alexander Graham Bell. our editorial process Mary Bellis Updated April 08, 2017 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. 1578 Stephen Frink/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images The first submarine design was drafted by William Borne but never got past the drawing stage. Borne's submarine design was based on ballast tanks which could be filled to submerge and evacuated to surface - these same principles are in use by today's submarines. 1620 Cornelis Drebbel, a Dutchman, conceived and built an oared submersible. Drebbels' submarine design was the first to address the problem of air replenishment while submerged. 1776 Francis Barber 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. 1798 LOC 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. 1895 LOC 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. 1904 The 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. 1943 The German U-boat U-264 is equipped with a snorkel mast. This mast which provides air to the diesel engine allows the submarine to operate the engine at a shallow depth and recharge the batteries 1944 The German U-791 uses Hydrogen Peroxide as an alternative fuel source. 1954 U.S. Navy 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. 1958 U.S Navy 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. 1959 U.S. Navy The USS George Washington is the world's first nuclear powered ballistic missile firing submarine.