Robert Fulton

Robert Fulton was a engineer & inventor. He is well known for developing a commercially successful steamboat; the……

QUICK FACTS

Born: November 14, 1765

Born Place: Pennsylvania, United States

Died: February 24, 1815

Death Place: New York, New York, United States

Nationality: American

Steamboat: North River Steamboat

Gender: Male

Occupation: Engineer, inventor, businessman

Spouse: Harriet Livingston (m. 1808; his death 1815)

BIOGRAPHY

Robert Fulton (November 14, 1765 – February 25, 1815) was an American engineer and inventor who is widely credited with developing a commercially successful steamboat; the first was called North River Steamboat (later Clermont). In 1807 that steamboat traveled on the Hudson River with passengers, from New York City to Albany and back again, a round trip of 300 miles (480 km), in 62 hours. The success of his steamboat changed river traffic and trade on major American rivers.

In 1800, Fulton had been commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, leader of France, to attempt to design a submarine; he produced Nautilus, the first practical submarine in history. Fulton is also credited with inventing some of the world’s earliest naval torpedoes for use by the Royal Navy.

Fulton became interested in Steam engines and the idea of steamboats in 1777 when he was around age 12 and visited state delegate William Henry of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who was interested in this topic. Henry had learned about inventor James Watt and his Watt steam engine on an earlier visit to England.

EARLY LIFE

Robert Fulton was born on a farm in Little Britain, Pennsylvania, on November 14, 1765. His father, Robert Fulton, married Mary Smith, daughter of Captain Joseph Smith and sister of Col. Lester Smith, a comparatively well off family. He had three sisters – Isabella, Elizabeth, and Mary, and a younger brother, Abraham.

For six years, he lived in Philadelphia, where he painted portraits and landscapes, drew houses and machinery, and was able to send money home to help support his mother. In 1785, Fulton bought a farm at Hopewell Township in Washington County near Pittsburgh for £80 (equivalent to $13275 in 2018), and moved his mother and family into it.

PERSONAL LIFE

On January 8, 1808, Fulton married Harriet Livingston (1786–1824), the daughter of Walter Livingston and niece of Robert Livingston, prominent men in the Hudson River area, whose family dated to the colonial era. Harriet, who was nineteen years his junior, was well educated and was an accomplished amateur painter and musician. Together, they had four children:

  • Robert Barlow Fulton (1808–1841), who died unmarried.
  • Julia Fulton (1810–1848), who married lawyer Charles Blight of Philadelphia.
  • Cornelia Livingston Fulton (1812–1893), who married lawyer Edward Charles Crary (1806–1848) in 1831.
  • Mary Livingston Fulton (1813–1861), who married Robert Morris Ludlow (1812–1894), parents of Robert Fulton Ludlow.

Fulton died in 1815 in New York City from tuberculosis (then known as “consumption”). 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. He is believed to have contracted pneumonia. When he got home, his sickness worsened. He was diagnosed with consumption and died at 49 years old. After his death, his widow remarried to Charles Augustus Dale on November 26, 1816.

He is buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery for Trinity Church (Episcopal) at Wall Street in New York City, near other notable Americans such as former U.S. Secretaries of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton and Albert Gallatin. His descendants include Cory Lidle, a former Major League Baseball pitcher.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 4 July 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

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