Robert Fulton, American Engineer and Inventor


Robert Fulton (November 14, 1765 - February 24, 1815) was an American engineer and inventor He began as a portrait painter, and moved to England in 1787. While living in England he focused his creativity on current engineering challenges and became involved in a project to design a canal system to replace the conventional locks that were in use at the time. He was granted an English patent in 1794 for his first invention, a double inclined plane system for hauling canal boats over difficult terrain. He later developed plans for cast iron aqueducts and invented a mechanical dredge to speed the construction of canals. His work with inland waterways culminated in a publication in 1796, entitled Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation. In 1791 he moved to France where he designed the torpedo carrying submarine Nautilus, and, in 1803, the first steamship. Fulton returned to America and by 1807 had organized first commercial paddle steamer services on the Hudson River. In 1814 he also designed and launched the Demolgos, the first steam warship. While walking home on the frozen Hudson River one of his friends, Addis Emmet, fell through the ice. In the attempt to rescue his friend, he got soaked with icy water and caught pneumonia. His sickness worsened when he contracted consumption and he died in 1815 at the age of 49.

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