John Holland was born In Ireland in 1841. He entered a Navy submarine design contest, before joining up with a group called the Fenian Brotherhood. Their goal was to develop a small submarine that could be launched from under a merchant vessel, then return. The result of his efforts was the Fenian Ram that was launched in 1881. Holland and the Fenians had numerous differences, and they broke off working together. He designed and built numerous submarine prototypes but he suffered numerous financial difficulties and often sold his designs for less then his research costs. He eventually sold his company to the Electric Boat Company (now part of General Dynamics) forfeiting rights to most of his patents. He died broke but not forgotten.
John Holland is buried in Holy Seplechure Cemetery in Totowa.