Isaac Peral was officer of the "Cuerpo General de la Armada", where he made a career as officer in different warships. Peral was also teacher of the Escuela Superior de la Armada.The Peral submarine was first conceived on 20 September 1884, when Lieutenant Isaac Peral wrote a paper which would become his Proyecto de Torpedero Submarino ("Project for a submarine torpedoboat").
After performing several studies and experiments, and having gained support from his superiors and fellow officers, Peral presented his idea to the Spanish navy staff. In September 1885, he wrote a letter to the Spanish naval minister, vice-admiral Pezuela y Lobo. Pezuela y Lobo called Peral to Madrid to have a personal interview with him. After the interview Pezuela y Lobo agreed to finance Peral's preliminary studies in Cádiz with an initial budget of 5,000 pesetas before launching a program to build a full-scale submarine boat. The Peral submarine was the first practical submarine ever made. In a test with naval authorities, the Peral submarine successfully attacked a cruiser at night without being noticed and returned to port without any damage on the 8th of September 1888. The submarine was coastal, however, because it lacked a double-hull and Diesel engine (petrol engines were not reliable at the time). Its performance was hardly equaled ten years later in other submarines. But a second project was rejected by naval authorities. It is assumed[by whom?] that political reasons were the cause of its rejection after successful tests.
Isaac Peral, frustrated, retired from naval active duty in November 1891. He founded a private electric company. After a medical intervention to cure the cerebral tumor he had been suffering from for some years, Peral contracted meningitis. He died from it in Berlin in May 1895. In the same year John Philip Holland marked a major step forward in submarine development, designing for the first time a mixed internal combustion/electric propulsion system that would overcome the limited range of batteries.
The first submarine to go on active duty in the Spanish Navy was built 22 years later based on the Holland class submarine and was named after Peral. His own experimental submarine was written off by the navy in 1913, but was salvaged and sent to Cartagena, homeport of navy's submarine flotilla. She was conserved there until the seventies, when she was handed over to the city.
Peral's Submarine torpedo boat, is known too as the Peral Submarine, but never bore this name in service. Submarines in service that have received his name are:
- Isaac Peral (A-0)
- Isaac Peral (C-1)
- Isaac Peral (S-32) ex-USS Ronquil (SS-396)
- Isaac Peral (S-81), S-80 class submarine, Under construction at Cartagena
- Ayala Carcedo, Francisco Javier and Aláez Zazuerca, José Antonio (2001). Historia de la tecnología en España. V. 2. Valatenea, p. 492. ISBN 84-923944-6-3
- Márquez, Francisco (1995) Harvard Magazine, http://harvardmagazine.com/1998/05/vita.html
- Almodóvar, pp. 132-134
- Isaac Peral as mentioned in the Cibeles lodge, member of the Grand Lodge of Spain