Li Gao (Li Kao)

SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
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fl. 752/820 China
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Chinese physicist, technologist and patron of engineers.
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Li Gao was Prince of Cao (Tshao). He was interested in acoustics and carried out experiments on both hydrostatic and air pressure. He constructed "trick" hydrostatic vessels that could take up different positions according to the amount of water in them. Such vessels had been known since the third century BC and were popular at court for over a thousand years: Li's were made of lacquered wood, c. 790, probably in quantity. He made successful use of paddle warships operated by treadmills. Similar vessels may have been in use as early as the late fifth century, but this is not at all certain. Li Gao's ships are therefore the first practical achievement of an idea for ship propulsion that, probably independently, had been mooted but not realized in early Byzantine times in Europe. His experiments with this type of vessel were made during 782 to 785, while he was Governor of Hungchow. It was said that the ships "went like the wind", faster than a charging horse.
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Further Reading
J.Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962, Vols IV. 1, pp. 38, 62; 1965, IV. 2, pp. 417–18, 433, 435; Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West, 1970, pp. 25, 127–8.
LRD

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

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