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The Fleuss Family

Some Relevant Articles 

Obituary from Engineering.
Letter from Richard Stenning to Peter Jackson about the Fleuss family
The Independent Diver by Peter Jackson - Designer of Diving Equipment with a historical interest
The Fleuss Apparatus by Peter Jackson - Designer of Diving Equipment with a historical interest
The Tubeless Pneumatic Tyre
Henry Albert Fleuss - Obituary in Engineering 17th Feb 1933
Obituary of Miroslav Sigmund
The Equipment used during the building of the Severn Railway Tunnel
Pump Patent by H.A.Fleuss

Henry Albert Fleuss
occasionally articles refer to Albert Henry


Henry Albert Fleuss

Born 13 Jun 1851

Married 30 Nov 1878 to Rosabelle FANE

See Albert Henry Fleuss for some detail about Rosebelle

Died 6th Jan 1933

Ethel Rosabelle Fleuss   born 08 Jan 1882
Albert Henry Fleuss       born 29 Jul 1883

Reference to Books; 
The Making of the Severn Tunnel by Roger Cowles
Vacuum by H.A.Fleuss

From Gerald Fleuss

Vera Guise referred to him as Uncle Harry. He also invented rolled up umbrella some sort of steam car.


There is little that can be written about Henry Albert Fleuss from a family point of view, however with the help of some notes and a letter from Richard Stenning, there are one or two comments that can be made.

He was the son of Henry Joseph Fleuss, an artist, who came from Prussia in the early 1800's and settled in England working initially at Marlborough.

He married at the age of 27 years old and seemed to have spent time at sea. It is noted, for interest, that he worked on various ships sailing to Australia and so there is a serious possibility that he was on the same ship as W.J.Didbin when he travelled to Australia in 1867.

It was while on ships that he began to think about the needs of divers and so invented the Fleuss Apparatus. After his own company failed he joined Siebe, Gorman & Co. of London with the idea, before moving to Combined Optical Instruments.

Although from artistic background and with three brothers Henry Otto Fleuss, Charles S Fleuss  and Oswald Fleuss  all professional artists or with artistic traits, he became an inventor and from the records a successful one.

It seems that because of his devotion to inventing his family may not have had all the attention due. 

There are a couple of anomalies in the obituary in "Engineering" regarding H A Fleuss.
There is a birth certificate indicating that he was born on 13th June 1851 the 2nd son of H.J.Fleuss and not as stated in the obituary.

From Richard we have the following information:

Fleuss Apparatus was the first practical application of a self contained breathing apparatus.
Benjamin Ward Richardson, a well respected scientist, promoted the work
Equipment was manufactured and loaned out particularly to coal mines. 1st built in 1878, 1st used in 1880 in 2 big colliery disasters.
A company was formed with Duff - The Fleuss Duff co. but foundered because the system of marketing the equipment by loaning out did not work well.
Sir Robert Davis of Siebe Gorman picked it up in 1903-5 and called it the Proto Apparatus -which is still used today. 
Siebe of Siebe Gormon came from Saxony in about 1819. Brass founder and machinist. He had an order to make a pump and diving helmets to salvage sunken ships. He made improvements to the Fleuss design and marketed it.  Gorman was his son in law.

He dropped out soon after,  worked for a while with Combined Optical Instruments with Miroslav Sigmund until he retired. Coincidentally the author was involved in subcontract work for that company in the late 1960's.

Henry Albert wrote a book called "Vacuum" and invented the GERYK Vacuum Pump.

A letter to Peter Jackson regarding Henry Albert, Richard makes a number of interesting points.

There is reference to the question- Was he divorced and why was his son not a beneficiary. He mentions that there is no record of the death of his wife or son or daughter in law other that on the tombstone. He considers that the apparent separation between H.A. and his wife and children my be due to him burying himself in his inventive world. Richard points out that he heard more about the artistic side of the family and Charlotte Sophie ( H.A. Fleuss' mother, being  Hapsburg and a pupil of Liszt. Charlotte Sophie was Austrian but was born in England. The Liszt story is questionable but it is reported that by her daughter that Dorothy nee Fleuss identifier her grandmother in a photograph of Liszt and his pupils. in Time magazine. But then Dorothy was one of the many "dramatic" Fleuss girls.


Information from Greg Spadoni    Olalla, WA, USA     July 2023

The wife of Henry Albert Fleuss, Rosabelle, and their son, Albert, both ended up in the northwest corner of America. Attached is Albert's obituary, from the Peninsula Gateway, the weekly newspaper of Gig Harbor, Washington. It was rather charitable for the cause of death to be listed as a nervous breakdown, when in reality, he died of syphilis. It's unlikely the newspaper was aware of that. Albert was indeed one of the leading citizens of Gig Harbor, very active in civic affairs. He's completely forgotten today, for his very important machine shop was purchased from his widow in the mid 1940s by a guy named Howard Cox, who was extraordinarily gifted as a machinist and mechanic, and lasted forty years or more, so eclipsed anything Albert had done. Albert's machine shop building is still standing, in the heart of Gig Harbor.

     Albert came to America in 1910 from Canada, apparently having arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (I specify that because Washington state also has a city named Vancouver) in 1909. He owned a car in Seattle in 1913, which is also the year he married his first wife, Fannie. She died the next year of complications due to a thyroid operation. She was born in Denmark. His second wife was Annie Cooke, though his wife at the time of his death was named Nancy. I'm pretty sure Annie and Nancy was the same woman. The name seemed to alternate throughout the years. Nancy was from England. In 1949 she moved back to England, to "make her home with a sister in Strathcona." I don't know if Cooke was her maiden name or a previous married name. Listed as 52 years old in the 1940 federal census, she was born about 1883.

     During WW1, when he registered for the military draft, Albert was a machinist in Seattle, and his mother, Rosabelle, was living in Seattle too. At some point she moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for a few years, but was living in Tacoma, Washington, when she died in 1938.

From the Census

1891 - Rosabelle in Staines with her daughter Ethell R and son Albert Henry

1901 -Henry Albert b.1852 - married to Rosabelle with a child, Albert Henry in Staines


In 1876, he invented a closed circuit oxygen rebreather. This suit used compressed oxygen instead of compressed air. His invention was originally intended to be used in the repair of the iron door of a flooded ship's chamber. Fleuss then decided to use his invention for a thirty-foot dive underwater. Unfortunately, he died from the pure oxygen; oxygen is toxic to humans under pressure. (Source) This so called fact is questionable  



H.A.Fleuss seems to be involved in a range of inventions including  a Tubeless Pneumatic Tyre,a Vaccuum Pump and had a Patent for a Compression or Exhaust Pump.

See Links for details



All the following details are taken from these websites.

From Wikipedia      

Graces Guide         

The History of Diving


Henry Albert Fleuss

Henry Albert Fleuss (1855-1933) of Siebe, Gorman and Co, inventor of the Miners' Rescue Apparatus and Self-contained breathing apparatus

1851 Born at Axford, Wiltshire, the son of Henry Joseph Fleuss (1811–1888) and his wife Charlotte Sophie Kolbach (1822–1891)

1878 November 30th. Married Rosabella Fane

In 1878 he was granted a patent for the first practical self contained breathing apparatus, which 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.

1879 Fleuss tested his device by spending an hour submerged in a water tank, then one week later by diving to a depth of 5.5m in open water, upon which occasion he was slightly injured when his assistants abruptly pulled him to the surface.

c1880 Henry Albert Fleuss in conjunction with Siebe and Gorman produced the first practicable self-contained oxygen breathing apparatus[1].

1880 His equipment used by Alexander Lambert in the recovery of the Severn Tunnel

1882 Birth of daughter Ethel Rosabelle Fleuss (1882–1893)

1883 Birth of son Albert Henry Fleuss (1883–1939)

1893 Partnership dissolved. '...the Partnership here-tofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Henry Albert Fleuss and Richard Charles Ashby, trading together as Umbrella Manufacturers, under the style or firm of Fleuss and Ashby, at 2, Fountain-court, Aldermanbury, in the city of London, has this day been dissolved by mutual consent....'[2]

1901 Living at Knowle Green, Staines: Henry A. Heuss (sic) (age 49 born Axford, Wiltshire), Consulting Engineer, own account. With his wife Rosabelle Fleuss (age 44 born Southampton) and their son Albert H. Heuss (age 19 born Newton, IOW), Pupil Architect. Two servants.[3]

1911 Living at Dunstan Lodge, Thatcham, Berks: Henry Albert Fleuss (age 59 born Axford, Wilts), Engineer Specialist in Air Pumps. First Inventor of Miners Rescue Apparatus etc. Widower and working as a consulting engineer on own account. One servant Annie Grace Redknapp. [4]

Some time before the First World War, the Fleuss-Davis independent breathing set for hardhat divers appeared. This device consisted of two 10-cubic-foot (280 Litre) 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 66 feet.

Fleuss also invented the Fleuss vacuum pump which was a double action Guericke type pump which delivers an almost constant suction. It uses a cylinder divided in halves: as one half of the cylinder is filled with air, the other half is evacuating air to the atmosphere by one stroke of the pump. The next stroke reverses this action, producing the constant flow.

1933 January 6th. Died. Of Tor cottage, Thordon Cross, Okehampton, in Devon. Left estate to Annie Grace Redknapp, spinster and Percy Harry Giles, engineer.

Henry Fleuss met his watery demise in 1932 when he tested his own invention during a dive. The pure oxygen used in the rebreather was fatal.   Thought to be  INCORRECT

About Inventor

Henry Albert Fleuss (1851–1933) was a pioneering diving engineer, and Master Diver for Siebe, Gorman & Co. of London.

Fleuss was born in Marlborough, Wiltshire in 1851.

 Henry Albert Fleuss was bom in Wiltshire, England in 1851. At the age of sixteen he went to sea, eventually becoming an officer with the P&O Company. Whilst watching divers recovering lost cargo in their heavy and cumbersome apparatus, Fleuss was inspired to find a way of making the diver independent of the surface and thus dispense with the heavy pump and the large crew of men needed to operate the apparatus.

Having studied the necessary physiology and chemistry in his spare time, Fleuss concluded that if the diver carried with him a supply of compressed oxygen and a means of chemically absorbing carbon dioxide, then he could remain completely independent of the surface. In 1878 he left the P&O and set about building his first self-contained diving apparatus. He proved to be both resourceful and innovative, building much of the apparatus himself, including a means of generating and compressing oxygen.

Fleuss had no previous experience of diving yet fearlessly tested his invention himself, attracting widespread interest through public demonstrations. A second, much improved model proved its worth in the flooded Severn Tunnel. Although there was considerable publicity for Fleuss and his apparatus, its significant potential as a means of rescuing trapped miners diverted attention away from its diving applications.

Fleuss collaborated with Robert Davis at the Siebe Gorman Company and developed the self-contained diving apparatus further. The Davis Submarine Escape Apparatus was a neat and compact derivative of the Fleuss apparatus and it also found use as a shallow diving apparatus, paving the way for the Frogmen and Human Torpedo riders of World War II.

Henry Fleuss was an habitual inventor, turning his mind to solving many diverse problems. He went on to produce the first practical tubeless tyres, the highly efficient Gerryck vacuum pumps, a steam car and more besides. However, it is for his pioneering work in developing the first practical closed-circuit breathing apparatus for mine rescue and diving that he will always be remembered. He died in 1933.

Henry Fleuss: An Early SCUBA Pioneer

Henry Fleuss (1851-1933) was a diving engineer for Siebe, Gorman & Co. of London. He is widely recognized as a pioneer in the field of diving and some even credit him as the first SCUBA diver. You didn't think it was Jacques Cousteau, did you?

Though he is credited with many other inventions including the Fleuss vacuum pump and a steam car, it is widely accepted that his most important was for the first self-contained breathing apparatus (SCUBA) using pure compressed oxygen. Originally designed in 1876, he was granted a patent for the apparatus in 1878 which freed the diver from having to rely on breathing surface-supplied air.

The apparatus consisted of a rubber mask, a breathing bag, a copper tank to hold the oxygen, and a scrubber. The closed-circuit system was designed to reuse the oxygen by removing the carbon dioxide using a rope yarn soaked in a solution of caustic potash. Originally used to rescue mine workers, Fleuss was lauded for this early SCUBA apparatus.

Its revolutionary and brilliant design became an invaluable piece of equipment for military operations during WWII. The Fleuss rebreather came to be preferred over all other available diving apparatus because it offered the diver total concealment (no air bubbles!).

Although the Fleuss rebreather limited the diver's working depth due to the threat of oxygen toxicity, it was truly revolutionary and is without a doubt a very important part of diving history.


 Relating to Charles Palmer

Although rebuffed in 1889, Palmer didn’t give up. Following disputes with his fellow directors, John Boyd Dunlop quit the board of the original Pneumatic Tyre Company in the spring of 1895. Jealous of the explosive growth of the du Cros’ family enterprise, Charles Palmer and others persuaded Dunlop to get back into the fray - and get even - by establishing a competitor. In April 1896 this new consortium bought the Birmingham-based ‘India rubber and tyre manufacturing company’ Capon Heaton, and the patents for tubeless pneumatic tyres from Henry Albert Fleuss and James William Smallman. Putting these pieces together, the new business was awkwardly called ‘The Tubeless Pneumatic Tire and Capon Heaton, Limited’. Dunlop became the chairman and Palmer a director, and the new entity was floated on the Birmingham and Dublin stock exchanges. Palmer ebulliently demonstrated how punctures became trivially easy to repair on the new Fleuss tubeless tyres when he was interviewed by Handsworth, A local Society Magazine that summer