Cornelis Drebbel

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The Dutch builder Cornelis Jacobszoon Drebbel is well known as the inventor of the world’s first navigable submarine. He began his career as a painter, engraver, and cartographer before developing a passion for mechanics, alchemy, and the design of optical devices. Born in Netherlands to a burgher, he studied at the Academy of Harleem after completing his primary education at a local Latin school and became Hendrick Goltzius’s student. Although he began his career as an apprentice to an engraver, he quickly became interested in alchemy and mechanical inventions. Subsequently, he was granted a patent for a “perpetual motion machine” that was activated by changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature; this invention earned his name in scientific and aristocratic circles in Europe. Later, at the invitation of King James I, he traveled to England, where he was encouraged to pursue his scientific endeavors. Among the various inventions credited to him are the first compound microscope with two sets of convex lenses, a variety of optical equipment, an improved thermometer, a scarlet dye, and self-contained ovens. The first ever navigational submarine, which he planned and constructed while employed by the English Royal Navy, was unquestionably his most famous and brilliant innovation. Cornelis Drebbel was a famous inventor and a bright empiricist who contributed to the improvement of mechanics, pneumatics, optics, chemistry, hydraulics, and pyrotechnics.

Youth and Early Life

Cornelis Drebbel was born in 1572 in Alkmaar, Netherlands, to landowner or farmer Jacob Janszoon Drebbel, a burgher of Alkmaar.
After completing his elementary schooling, he attended the Latin school in Alkmaar and then the Academy in North Haarlem. Holland’s There, he served as an apprentice to the renowned engraver Hendrick Goltzius.

Gradually, he became an accomplished engraver, as evidenced by a number of his surviving engravings. In addition, he developed an interest in and acquired an understanding of alchemy from Hendrick.

Cornelius Drebbel’s Career

Following his 1595 marriage, he devoted himself to engraving and printing maps and images. Soon after, he took an interest in mechanical inventions, and in 1598 he was granted a patent for a water-supply system and a perpetual clockwork.

In 1601, he constructed a fountain for the city of Middelburg in Zeeland. He was granted a patent the next year for a chimney he had designed.

After being acquainted with sight manufacturer and telescope builder Hans Lippershey and his colleague Zacharias Jansen, he developed an interest in optics. He subsequently gained knowledge of lens grinding and optics.

Some of his mechanical inventions impressed King James I of England, who invited the Drebbel family to travel to England, where he was placed in the special service of Henry, Prince of Wales. There, he astounded the court with his inventions, including the perpetual motion machine, automatic and hydraulic organs, and optical instruments.

Drebbel and his family relocated to Prague in 1610 at the request of Emperor Rudolf II, where he again showed his innovations.

After Rudolf’s brother Matthias had captured Prague and overthrown him, Drebbel faced a period of incarceration. Later, via the intervention of Prince Henry, he was granted permission to return to England in 1613 and was subsequently liberated.

Drebbel spent the following several years to manufacturing microscopes and developing of a submarine. He created optical equipment and compound microscopes with two convex lenses that became relatively well-known for their use in scientific study.

Working for the English Royal Navy in 1620, he constructed the first navigable submarine. Over the course of the next four years, he successfully constructed and tested two larger submarines.

In his later years, he lived in near poverty and ran an alehouse for subsistence. His most renowned work was “Ein kurzes Tractat über die Natur der Elemente” (1608), an alchemical treatise on the transmutation of the elements.

Drebbel’s Major Opera

Drebbel invented and constructed his most renowned invention, the navigational submarine, in the early 1620s. The wooden watercraft traveled from Westminster to Greenwich on the River Thames at a depth of 12 to 15 feet, propelled by oars and sealed against the water by a covering of oiled leather.

Drebbel invented the first thermostat, which maintained a constant temperature within a furnace using a column of mercury and a system of floats and levers. In addition, he created a method for producing sulfuric acid from sulfur and saltpeter and discovered the first permanent scarlet cloth dye.

Awards & Achievements

In his honor, a minor lunar crater has been named “Drebbel.”

Personal History and Legacy

In 1595, Cornelis Drebbel married Sophia Jansdochter Goltzius, younger sister of Hendrick Goltzius. The couple had multiple children, four of whom survived.

Due to his wife’s dissolute lifestyle, he endured financial difficulties and remained in constant need of funds throughout his lifetime. On November 7, 1633, he passed away in London while living in near poverty.

Estimated Net Worth

Cornelius Drebbel has an estimated net worth of $5 million dollars and earns a living as a submariner, artist, instrument builder, engineer, inventor, physicist, chemist, and printmaker. We lack sufficient evidence pertaining to Cornelius Drebbel’s automobiles and way of life.