Wilson, Robert

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b. September 1803 Dunbar, Haddingtonshire, East Lothian, Scotland
d. 28 July 1882 Matlock, Derbyshire, England
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Scottish mechanical engineer and inventor who developed the self-acting control gear applied to the steam-hammer.
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Robert Wilson was the son of a fisherman who was drowned in a lifeboat rescue attempt in December 1810. He received only a meagre education and was apprenticed to a joiner. From a very early age he was much concerned with the idea of applying screw propellers to ships, and his invention was approved by the Highland Society and by the Scottish Society of Arts, who in 1832 awarded him a silver medal. He must have gained some experience as a mechanic and while working on his invention he made the acquaintance of James Nasmyth. In 1838 he became Works Manager at Nasmyth's Bridgewater Foundry and made an important contribution to the success of the steam-hammer by developing the self-acting control gear. From 1845 he was with the Low Moor Ironworks near Bradford, Yorkshire, but in July 1856 he returned to the Bridgewater Foundry so that he was able to take over as Managing Partner after Nasmyth's early retirement at the end of 1856. In 1867 the name of the firm was changed to Nasmyth, Wilson \& Co., and Wilson remained a partner until May 1882, when the firm became a limited company. Wilson often returned to his first invention, and two of his many patents related to improvements in screw propellers. In 1880 he received £500 from the War Department for the use of his double-action screw propeller as applied to the torpedo.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Member, Institution of Mechanical Engineers 1857. FRSE 1873. Member, Royal Scottish Society of Arts.
Bibliography
1860, The Screw Propeller: Who Invented It?, Glasgow.
Further Reading
J.A.Cantrell, 1984, James Nasmyth and the Bridgewater Foundry, Manchester, Appendix F, pp. 262–3 (a short biographical account and a list of his patents).
RTS

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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