Giovanni Luppis

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Giovani (Ivan) Luppis

Frigate captain
Ivan Giovanni Lupis.jpg
Birth nameGiovanni Biagio Luppis von Rammer
Born27 August 1813
Fiume, Illyrian Provinces
(now Rijeka, Croatia)
Died11 January 1875(1875-01-11) (aged 61)
Milan, Kingdom of Italy (now Italy)
Allegiance Austria-Hungary
Service/branch Austro-Hungarian Navy
Battles/warsSecond Italian War of Independence

Giovanni (Ivan) Biagio Luppis Freiherr von Rammer (27 August 1813 – 11 January 1875), sometimes also known by the Croatian name of Vukić, was an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Navy who headed a commission to develop the first prototypes of the self-propelled torpedo.[1][2]

Early years[edit]

Giovanni Luppis in his early years

Giovanni Luppis (or Ivan Lupis) was born in the city of Rijeka (then Fiume) in 1813, which was at the time part of the Illyrian Provinces, but soon passed back to Austria. His parents were Ferdinando Carlo, nobleman of Poreč and Vis, and Giovanna Parich (Parić, Perić), noble of Republic of Dubrovnik. Because of his mixed Italian-Croatian ancestry, his family was at different times also known as Vukić, a Croatianized variant of the name Lupis (both meaning "wolf"), and he himself is occasionally referred to as Ivan Vukić, especially by Croatians.[3][4]

In the city of Fiume, Giovanni Luppis's family has been powerful shipowners.[5] Luppis attended a gymnasium in Fiume and the Collegio di marina, the Austrian naval academy in Venice. Then he married a noblewoman, the Baroness Elisa de Zotti.

He served in the Venezianisch-Österreichische Kriegsmarine (after 1849 K.u.K Kriegsmarine[6] ) and rose up the ranks to the position of Frigate Captain (Fregattenkapitan). In 1848/1849 he was an officer on the ships that blockaded Venice.[7]

The "Salvacoste" (Coastsaver)[edit]

About the middle in the 18th century, an officer of the Austrian Marine Artillery conceived the idea of employing a small boat carrying a large charge of explosives, powered by a steam or an air engine and remotely steered by cable to be used against enemy ships. Upon his death, before he had perfected his invention or made it public, the papers of this anonymous officer came into the possession of Capt. Giovanni Luppis.[8]

Bust of the Baron Captain Giovanni Luppis von Rammer in the Family Palace in Italy

He envisioned a floating device for destroying ships that would be unmanned and controlled from land, while the explosive charges would detonate at the moment of impact. His first prototype was one metre long, had glass wings, and was controlled via long ropes from the coast. It didn't succeed due to it being too cumbersome.

The second model was built with a clock mechanism as the engine for the propeller. The explosives were in the stern and were ignited through a pistol-like control, which in turn was activated through the bow, the sides or the mast. It had two rudders: one turned to the right, the other to the left, that were moved by ropes/wires from land. After numerous experiments, this design, marked '6 m', finally performed but not well enough. He nicknamed it 'Salvacoste', Italian for "Coastsaver".[9]

In 1860, after Luppis had retired from the Navy, he managed to demonstrate the '6 m' design to the Emperor Franz Joseph, but the naval commission refused to accept it without better propulsion and control systems.

The meeting with Robert Whitehead[edit]

In Fiume in 1864, the future mayor Giovanni de Ciotta introduced Luppis to the British machine engineer Robert Whitehead, manager of the local factory "Stabilimento Tecnico Fiumano", with whom he signed a contract to develop the 'salvacoste' further.

After looking at Luppis's previous efforts Whitehead built a model but decided that the idea was not viable. Whitehead then significantly altered the previous designs and started to think about the problem of setting off explosive charges remotely below a ship's waterline, this being far more effective than above-water bombardment. Whitehead then made a device running under water and installed an engine running on compressed air, as well as automatic guidances for the depth and direction.

On 21 December 1866 the first automobile torpedo, now named Minenschiff, was officially demonstrated in front of the Austro-Hungarian State Naval Commission for evaluation. This model was 355 mm in diameter and 3.35 m in length, weighing 136 kg with 8 kg of explosives. The naval commission accepted it, and subsequently on 6 March 1867 the government contracted the inventors for a test production and agreed to pay all the production costs.

Whitehead retained the copyrights and even negotiated a new contract with Luppis. This however gave Whitehead full control of all future sales.

On 27 May 1867, the navy paid 200,000 forints in royalties to the inventor (Fiume being located in the Hungarian part of the Empire). The invention was generally regarded as a promising one, but in the first years of production there were not enough orders, so "Stabilimento" went through a crisis and went bankrupt in 1873. Whitehead then took it over and at the beginning of 1875 transformed it into a private company called 'Torpedo-Fabrik von Robert Whitehead'.

Giovanni Luppis was given the noble title of Baron von Rammer ('the sinker') by Kaiser Franz Josef on 1 August 1869. He died in the borough (frazione) of Torriggia, in the municipality of Laglio, near Como on 11 January 1875.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gray, Edwin. The Devil's Device: Robert Whitehead and the History of the Torpedo, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1991 310pp, ISBN 0-87021-245-1
  • Wilson, H. W. Ironclads in action;: A sketch of naval warfare from 1855 to 1895, London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company, 1895, Fourth Edition 1896 (Two Volumes), pre ISBN

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tucker, Spencer (2009). The Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-951-1.
  2. ^ Fowler, Will (15 August 2011). The Story of Modern Weapons and Warfare. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4488-4793-8.
  3. ^ Luppis was descended from a branch of the Italian noble family of Lupis, which migrated into Dalmatia from Giovinazzo, in Apulia. This branch moved first to the Republic of Dubrovnik and then to the peninsula of Pelješac in Croatia), where it Slavicized the name into Vuk, Vukić, or Vukašinovic (another adaptation of lupus, meaning "wolf"). When, in the 17th century, one of his ancestors moved to Rijeka, he Italianized his name back into Luppis. See: Giovanni Luppis family in the Libro d'Oro della Nobiltà Italiana scanned version here; also: History of the de Lupis Family (in Italian) and Giovanni Luppis genealogy
  4. ^ "Lupis, Ivan Blaž". Portal hrvatske tehničke baštine. Miroslav Krleža Institute of Lexicography. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  5. ^ Giovanni Luppis genealogy
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 26 October 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ La Voce del Popolo (Fiume), Sabato 3 marzo 2007: Storia del silurificio di Fiume e biografia di Giovanni Luppis Archived 5 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine (pp.6-7)
  8. ^ "Origin of the Whitehead torpedo, p. 6". Torpedo History - Part 1 - Historical Background. Naval Undersea Museum. 28 June 2010. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2013. About the middle of the nineteenth century, an officer of the Austrian Marine Artillery conceived the idea of employing a small boat carrying a large charge of explosives, powered by a steam or an air engine and remotely steered by cables to be used against enemy ships. Upon his death, before he had perfected his invention or made it public, the papers of this anonymous officer came into the possession of Capt. Giovanni Luppis
  9. ^ 1st international Conference on the occasion of 150th anniversary of the Whitehead torpedo factory in Fiume and preservation of industrial heritage Archived 21 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]