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Parrish, Thomas. The Submarine: A History.

PARRISH, Thomas. The submarine: a history. Penguin. 576p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. c2004. 0-14-303519-3. $17.00. SA

This history of the "peripatetic coffin" reads as easily as a novel, containing as it does dramatic accounts of accidents, warfare, bravery, invention, and politics. Six parts follow the submarine from its beginnings during the Revolutionary War through two world wars and into the nuclear age. Although Leonardo da Vinci thought of an underwater craft, William Bourne, a 16th-century English mathematician, is the first person to have designed a submarine. David Bushnell produced the first usable sub, the Turtle, in 1775. It failed to sink the H.M.S. Eagle, the flagship of Vice Admiral Lord Howe, which was blockading New York in 1776. In 1799 Robert Fulton solved a few problems, designing a 24.5 feet-long cigar-shaped craft that had a periscope and a compressed air tank. During the American Civil War the C.S.S. Hunley attacked and sank the Housatonic off Charleston. In 1870 Jules Verne "invented" one of the greatest submarines ever, the Nautilus, in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. During the 1860s the submarine became a more efficient killing machine with the development of an effective torpedo. American John Holland made a leap forward by moving from steam to a gasoline engine during the late 1890s. In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt gave the submarine positive publicity by taking a two-hour plunge off Long Island.

The submarine's role in the world wars is well known, as is the inauguration of the nuclear sub. The development during the 1960s of a new class of submarine that could fire the Polaris ballistic missile intensified the Cold War but kept the peace. The book ends with the tragic sinking of the Kursk on August 12, 2000. Stories of personal bravery and tragedy make this history more than a dry recital of facts. Janet Julian, English Teacher, Grafton, MA
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Author:Julian, Janet
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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