The idea of protecting vessels by means of a very light, self-obturating material was conceived by Admiral Pallu de la Barriere, an officer in the French navy. Being a learned man, as well as an officer of great merit, Pallu de la Barriere devoted a large portion of his life to studying the various methods of protecting those marvelous and formidable floating fortresses which constitute the basis of naval power in every great nation.
In some notes written some years ago the Admiral proclaimed the following, which, in his mind, embodied the main points of naval architecture:
"The battleship, in order to be properly qualified for naval warfare, ought not only to be unsinkable, but she should also preserve during the entire action her stability, her maneuvering power, and the height of her gun-platforms."
He then adds that "the unsinkable quality of ships varies in the merchant- and war-ships.
"A steamer belonging to the Messageries Maritimes was able, after a collision on the ocean, to continue her voyage from Japan to China after her prow had been torn away." This he designated "commercial unsinkability."