For centuries, humans have been trying to devise equipment to enable us to breathe underwater with the US military coming closest to success with the SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) programme designed by Christian Lambert in 1939 that had the unfortunate side effect of leaving divers injured or killed by oxygen toxicity (pure oxygen at increased partial pressures is toxic). Aqua Lung invented the first safe underwater breathing system in 1943 when Jacques-Yves Costeau collaborated with Emile Gagnan, an engineer with L’aire Liquide (a French multinational company specialising in supplying industrial gases and services), to produce an air regulator valve that would regulate your air supply in a variable pressure environment.
Knowing that oxygen and air-pressure would be key to creating a safe underwater breathing system, Gagnan used a similar type of valve used in gas-generator engines to create a pressure regulator that adjusts the air pressure of your breathing gas automatically so that the air pressure inside the diver’s lungs matches the pressure of the water. With Costeau believing that “purified and filtered compressed air was the ideal gas mixture for self-contained breathing apparatuses”, Gagnan and Costeau created a demand valve that delivers breathing gas to the diver when you need it. These three critical and groundbreaking safety innovations made Aqua Lung’s underwater breathing system the first safe and modern underwater breathing apparatus.
With the invention of the modern diving regulator, L’aire Liquide (Air Liquide) founded La Spirotechnique (now Aqua Lung International) in 1946 as a specialised division to conceive and commercialise regulators and other diving equipment. In 1946, Aqua Lung rolled out the first Aqua Lung modern regulator, the CG45, with distribution rights sold to U.S Divers in 1952. Air Liquide acquired US Divers in 1958, renaming it Aqua Lung America.
Today, Aqua Lung continues to be the “leading global designer and manufacturer of scuba dive equipment and water sports gear” with almost every set of modern SCUBA gear around the world using the Aqua Lung system. Aqua Lung equipment for recreational, technical and military applications can be found under the brand names of Aqua Lung, Aqua Sphere, Apeks, OMER, U.S. Divers, MP Michael Phelps and Stohlquist. There are also independently owned Aqua Lung Partner Centres around the world dedicated to helping customers maximise their scuba diving experience.