Kirk, Alexander Carnegie

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b. c.1830 Barry, Angus, Scotland
d. 5 October 1892 Glasgow, Scotland
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Scottish marine engineer, advocate of multiple-expansion in steam reciprocating engines.
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Kirk was a son of the manse, and after attending school at Arbroath he proceeded to Edinburgh University. Following graduation he served an apprenticeship at the Vulcan Foundry, Glasgow, before serving first as Chief Draughtsman with the Thames shipbuilders and engineers Maudslay Sons \& Field, and later as Engineer of Paraffin Young's Works at Bathgate and West Calder in Lothian. He was credited with the inventions of many ingenious appliances and techniques for improving production in these two establishments. About 1866 Kirk returned to Glasgow as Manager of the Cranstonhill Engine Works, then moved to Elder's Shipyard (later known as the Fairfield Company) as Engineering Manager. There he made history in producing the world's first triple-expansion engines for the single-screw steamship Propontis in 1874. That decade was to confirm the Clyde's leading role as shipbuilders to the world and to establish the iron ship with efficient reciprocating machinery as the workhorse of the British Merchant Marine. Upon the death of the great Clyde shipbuilder Robert Napier in 1876, Kirk and others took over as partners in the shipbuilding yard and engine shops of Robert Napier \& Sons. There in 1881 they built a ship that is acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of British shipbuilding: the SS Aberdeen for George Thompson's Aberdeen Line to the Far East. In this ship the fullest advantage was taken of high steam temperatures and pressures, which were expanded progressively in a three-cylinder configuration. The Aberdeen, in its many voyages from London to China and Japan, was to prove the efficiency of these engines that had been so carefully designed in Glasgow. In the following years Dr Kirk (he has always been known as Doctor, although his honorary LLD was only awarded by Glasgow University in 1888) persuaded the Admiralty and several shipping companies to accept not only triple-expansion machinery but also the use of mild steel in ship construction. The successful SS Parisian, built for the Allan Line of Glasgow, was one of these pioneer ships.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
FMW

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

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