FLEUSS, Henry Albert
United Kingdom (1851-1932)
Last updated: April 2, 2020 at 12:56 pm
Engineer; Master Diver for Siebe, Gorman & Co. of London; inventor of a self-contained oxygen rebreather successfully tested by remaining submerged in a water tank for one hour, followed by an openwater dive to a depth of 5.5 m (18 ft) in 1879; the apparatus was first used during the construction of the Severn Tunnel in 1880; co-inventor of the Fleuss-Davis independent breathing set for hardhat divers.
In 1878 he was granted a patent which improved rebreathers. His apparatus consisted of a rubber mask connected to a breathing bag, with (estimated) 50-60% O2 supplied from a copper tank and CO2 scrubbed by rope yarn soaked in a solution of caustic potash, the system giving a duration of about three hours.¹
Fleuss’s apparatus was first used under operational conditions in November 1880 by Alexander Lambert, lead diver of the Severn Tunnel construction project. Trained by Fleuss, he was able to close a submerged sluice door in the tunnel which had defeated the best efforts of hard hat divers due to the danger of their air supply hoses becoming fouled on submerged debris, and the strong water currents in the workings. The same apparatus was later used several times to rescue mine workers in flooded workings.¹
Some time before the First World War, the Fleuss-Davis independent breathing set for hardhat divers appeared. This device consisted of two 280-liter (10-cubic-foot) tanks, one each for compressed air and oxygen. The gases were mixed in a manifold between the two tanks and the diver’s mouthpiece. The manufacturer claimed success of this unit to depths of 20 m (66 ft).¹