William Bourne (mathematician)
William Bourne was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 mathematician, innkeeper and former Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 gunner who invented the first navigable submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

 and wrote important navigational manuals. He is often called William Bourne of Gravesend
Gravesend, Kent
Gravesend is a town in northwest Kent, England, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Tilbury in Essex. It is the administrative town of the Borough of Gravesham and, because of its geographical position, has always had an important role to play in the history and communications of this part of...


In 1574, he produced a popular version of the Martín Cortés de Albacar
Martín Cortés de Albacar
Martín Cortés de Albacar was a Spanish cosmographer. In 1551 he published the standard navigitional textbook Arte de navigar Cortés was born in Bujaraloz, province of Zaragoza, Aragon...

's Arte de Navegar, entitled A Regiment for the Sea. Bourne was critical of some aspects of the original and produced a manual of more practical use to the seaman. He described how to make observations of the sun and stars, using a cross-staff, and how to plot coastal features from the ship by taking bearings using triangulation.

Submarine design

His design, detailed in his book Inventions and Devises published in 1578, was one of the first recorded plan for an underwater navigation vehicle. He designed an enclosed craft capable of submerging by decreasing the overall volume (rather than flooding chambers as in modern submarines), and being rowed underwater. Bourne described a ship with a wooden frame covered in waterproofed leather, but the description was a general principle rather than a detailed plan. However, Bourne's concept of an underwater rowing boat was put into action by the Dutchman Cornelius Drebbel
Cornelius Drebbel
Cornelis Jacobszoon Drebbel was the Dutch builder of the first navigable submarine in 1620. Drebbel was an innovator who contributed to the development of measurement and control systems, optics and chemistry....

 in 1620, and Nathaniel Symons demonstrated a 'sinking boat' in 1729 using the expanding and contracting volume of the boat to submerge.

The submarine was the subject of a modern-day recreation on season 3 of "The Re-Inventors
The Re-Inventors
The Re-Inventors is a Canadian TV show based around exploring historic inventions. In each episode the hosts choose a historic invention and attempt to rebuild it. Each invention is given a set of evaluation criteria before being tested...

" TV show, episode "Bourne Submarine". The recreation had limited functionality before it sank when water pressure ruptured some membranes on a test descent.

Partial list of publications

  • An Almanac and Prognostication for Three Years, 1571
  • William Bourns booke of artillery, 1572 (draft manuscript)
  • Treasure for Travellers, 1572/3
  • Art of Shooting in Great Ordnance, 1572/3
  • A Regiment for the Sea, 1574 (11 English editions from 1574 to 1631, at least 3 Dutch editions starting in 1594)
  • A Booke called the Treasure for Traueilers, 1578 (republished in 1641 as A Mate for Mariners)
  • Inventions or Devices. Very Necessary for all Generalles and Captaines, as wel by Sea as by Land, 1578
  • The Arte of Shooting in Great Ordinance
    Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

    , 1578, 1587, 1643
  • "On Optical Glasses," transcribed manuscript published in Halliwell's Rara Mathematica.

External links

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