Robert Fulton

Robert Fulton

Robert Fulton (November 14, 1765 - February 24, 1815) born on November 14, 1765, in Little Britain, Pennsylvania, now called Fulton. His father immigrated from Ireland in the early part of the century. Fulton showed early talent for mechanical devices. He was an American engineer and inventor who is widely credited with developing the first commercially successful steamboat. In 1800, he was commissioned by Napolean Bonaparte to design the Nautilus, which was the first practical submarine in history. He is also credited with inventing some of the world's earliest naval torpedoes for use by the British Navy

Fulton was like Samuel F. B. Morsein that they were both artists as well as inventors. Working first as an artist in Philadelphia, he went to London in 1786 to study under Benjamin West. While in England, he encountered the earl of Stanhope and the Duke of Bridgewater, both of whom were active in engineering developments and provided Fulton with contacts through which his active experimentation began.

The Duke of Bridgewater was well known for his role in the construction of a canal from Worsley to Manchester. Fulton himself developed a number of new ideas, including a double inclined plane to raise and lower boats in canals from one level to another. Fulton sent letters to George Washington and other Americans, describing the advantages of canal navigation to the new country.

In 1797, Fulton moved to France, where he began experiments with submarines. In the winter of 1800-1801, Fulton's experimental sub had successful trial runs off Le Havre. The French government provided him with more money and offered to pay him for any British shipping destroyed, but the submarine was not a military success.

The English decided it was better to have him working on their side, so Fulton left France for Britain in 1804. The British eventually concluded that the submarine was not workable, and Fulton returned to America in 1806. The United States Congress provided him with funds for further submarine research, but the project was never a success.

In 1806, Fulton returned to America and married Harriet Livingston, the niece of Robert Livingston and daughter of Walter Livingston. They had four children: Robert, Julia, Mary and Cornelia. In 1807, Fulton and Livingston together built the first commercial steamboat, the North River Steamboat (later known as the Clermont), which carried passengers between NewYork City and Albany, New York. The Clermont was able to make the 150 mile trip in 32 hours. From 1811 until his death, Fulton was a member of the Erie Canal Commission.

Fulton's final design was the Demologos, which was the world's first steam driven warship built for the US Navy for the war of 1812. The vessel was not completed until after his death and renamed the Fulton in his honor. Steam powered boats quickly multiplied. Fulton was never able to clearly establish his patents are the original inventor and was constantly involved in litigation.

Fulton died in 1815 from tuberculosis. He had been walking home on the frozen Hudson River when one of his friends, Addis Emmet, fell through the ice. In the attempt to rescue his friend, Fulton got soaked with icy water and on the journey home he caught pneumonia. When he got home his sickness worsened and died at 49 years old on February 24, 1815 in New York City. He is buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery in New York City, alongside other famous Americans such as Alexander Hamilton and Albert Gallitin. His descendants include former Major League Baseball pitcher Cory Lidle

Quotes by and involving Robert Fulton

"The American dream of rags to riches is a dream for a reason - it is hard to achieve; were everyone to do it, it wouldn't be a dream but would rather be reality." - Robert Fulton

"What sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you excuse me. I have no time to listen to such nonsense." - Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte

"The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, and they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the clown." - Carl Sagan

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