Robert Fulton - Robert Fulton (1765-1815), American...

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Robert Fulton (1765-1815), American inventor, civil engineer, and artist, established the first regular and commercially successful steamboat operation. Robert Fulton was born November 14, 1765, in Lancaster County, Pa. His father worked at farming, among other jobs, and died when Robert was a small boy. By the age of 10 Robert showed promise as an artist and was employed by local gunsmiths to make designs for their work. At 17 he went to Philadelphia, the cultural center of the Atlantic seaboard, and spent 4 years making portraits and doing miniatures. Financially successful, he was able to buy a farm near the city for his mother. In 1786 Fulton went to London to study painting with Benjamin West, who had been a family friend and was by this time one of the leading American painters living in England. England was already in the midst of its industrial revolution, and Fulton was fascinated by the new engineering enterprises - canals, mines, bridges, roads, and factories. His interest became professional, and after about 1793 he gave up painting as a vocation, pursuing it only for his own amusement. As early as 1794 Fulton considered using steam power to drive a boat. Seven years earlier John Fitch had successfully demonstrated his steamboat on the Delaware River at Philadelphia, but in the interim no one had been able to make both a mechanical and commercial success of the idea. Though the British government had banned the export of steam engines, Fulton wrote to the firm of Boulton and Watt about the possibility of buying a ready-made engine to be applied to boat propulsion. Most of Fulton's energy during these years was devoted to more conventional problems of civil and mechanical engineering. He patented in England a "double-incline plane" for hauling canal boats over difficult terrain and machines to saw marble, to spin flax , and to twist hemp for rope. He built a mechanical dredge to speed the construction of canals and in 1796 published his illustrated pamphlet , A Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation. For the next 10 years Fulton devoted himself to the development of underwater warfare through the invention and improvement of a submarine and explosive torpedoes. It is thought that he believed that if warfare were made sufficiently destructive and horrible it would be abandoned - a fallacy often invoked by inventors of military devices. He tried to interest the French government in his experiments, and he obtained the promise of prizes for any British ships he might destroy with his devices. In 1801 he proceeded with his submarine, the Nautilus, against various ships but was unsuccessful. By 1804 his failure to win French money for destroying
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This note was uploaded on 07/26/2011 for the course FULTON 4 MT 140 taught by Professor Magoo during the Spring '11 term at Kaplan University.

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Robert Fulton - Robert Fulton (1765-1815), American...

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