Charles (1796) and John (1800) Deane came from a large but poor family. Both had experience at sea, John as a sailor and Charles as a caulker. In 1824, Charles filed a patent for: 

"An apparatus to be worn by persons entering rooms or other places filled with smoke or other vapour, for the purpose of extingguishing fire or extricating persons or property therein".

In other words: Charles invented a smoke helmet. During his time at sea and working at shipyards he must have seen many fires on board ships. He must have been well aware of the problem of dence smoke, preventing escape and rescue.

His boss, Edward Bernard, who owned the shipyard, payed him an amount of 417 pounds for an "indenture of assignment" for the patent. Technically, as from that time, Charles had no further rights over his invention. Nobody was interested in the smoke helmet. 


The first diving helmet

The smoke helmet would later serve as a basis for the open diving helmet. In those days diving bells were used for salvage and rescue operations. Needless to say that those could not in all cases be used with the appropriate accuracy. Charles and John were both involved in bell operations and felt that there should be a more successfull way to apply bell technology. They realised that the smoke helmet could operate in just the same way as the diving bell. Their bell would be so small that it would only cover the divers' head and shoulders. After several tests in the canal with a canvas smoke helmet, they felt it could work. They contacted Augustus Siebe, who was an engineer and had a machine shop in London. He produced a helmet to their specifications. 

With this helmet the Deane brothers made numerous testdives. They discovered the positive buiyancy, due to the lack of weight of the hat and added weights. They discovered that the air exhaust was a vital part of the helmet. They drilled holes in the breastplate to encourage the exhaust but then found the bubbles obstructed the divers' view. The holes were then filled up again with lead plugs. 

When leanig forward, the water would rise so high inside the helmet that the divers' mouth and nose would be underwater. They attached a short jacket to the helmet and air exhausted at the divers' waist. This was a lot safer. The first diving helmet was born! And inventor Charles Deane made a lot of successful salvage dives in his hat. He dived on many famous wrecks like the Royal George and the Mary Rose.

Here is a museum reproduction of that first diving helmet. Notice the lights in their typical horizontal position. Charles copied this from his smoke helmet.

In 1837, a young and brilliant engineer, George Edwards, enters the diving business. He bought a Deane outfit at Augustus Siebe's store and performed diving jobs in it for over one year. After this, beeing the engineer that he was, he suggested safety improvements........

This was the beginning of the end of the Deane helmet.......

Story continued at the Siebe mainpage