Howden, James

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b. 29 February 1832 Prestonpans, East Lothian, Scotland
d. 21 November 1913 Glasgow, Scotland
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Scottish engineer and boilermaker, inventor of the forced-draught system for the boiler combustion chamber.
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Howden was educated in Prestonpans. While aged only 14 or 15, he travelled across Scotland by canal to Glasgow, where he served an engineering apprenticeship with James Gray \& Co. In 1853 he completed his time and for some months served with the civil engineers Bell and Miller, and then with Robert Griffiths, a designer of screw propellers for ships. In 1854, at the age of 22, Howden set up as a consulting engineer and designer. He designed a rivet-making machine from which he realized a fair sum by the sale of patent rights, this assisting him in converting the design business into a manufacturing one. His first contract for a marine engine came in 1859 for the compound steam engine and the watertube boilers of the Anchor Liner Ailsa Craig. This ship operated at 100 psi (approximately 7 kg/cm2), well above the norm for those days. James Howden \& Co. was formed in 1862. Despite operating in the world's most competitive market, the new company remained prosperous through the flow of inventions in marine propulsion. Shipbuilding was added to the company's list of services, but such work was subcontracted. Work was obtained from all the great shipping companies building in the Glasgow region, and with such throughput Howden's could afford research and experimentation. This led to the Howden hot-air forced-draught system, whereby furnace waste gases were used to heat the air being drawn into the combustion chambers. The first installation was on the New York City, built in 1885 for West Indian service. Howden's fertile mind brought about a fully enclosed high-speed marine steam engine in the 1900s and, shortly after, the Howden-Zoelly impulse steam turbine for land operation. Until his death, Howden worked on many technical and business problems: he was involved in the St Helena Whaling Company, marble quarrying in Greece and in the design of a recoilless gun for the Admiralty.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Howden was the last surviving member of the group who founded the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland in 1857.
Bibliography
Howden contributed several papers to the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland.
Further Reading
C.W.Munn, 1986, "James Howden", Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography, Vol. I, Aberdeen.
FMW

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

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