Napier, Robert

SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
[br]
b. 18 June 1791 Dumbarton, Scotland
d. 23 June 1876 Shandon, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
[br]
Scottish shipbuilder one of the greatest shipbuilders of all time, known as the "father" of Clyde shipbuilding.
[br]
Educated at Dumbarton Grammar School, Robert Napier had been destined for the Church but persuaded his father to let him serve an apprenticeship as a blacksmith under him. For a while he worked in Edinburgh, but then in 1815 he commenced business in Glasgow, the city that he served for the rest of his life. Initially his workshop was in Camlachie, but it was moved in 1836 to a riverside factory site at Lancefield in the heart of the City and again in 1841 to the Old Shipyard in the Burgh of Govan (then independent of the City of Glasgow). The business expanded through his preparedness to build steam machinery, beginning in 1823 with the engines for the paddle steamer Leven, still to be seen a few hundred metres from Napier's grave in Dumbarton. His name assured owners of quality, and business expanded after two key orders: one in 1836 for the Honourable East India Company; and the second two years later for the Royal Navy, hitherto the preserve of the Royal Dockyards and of the shipbuilders of south-east England. Napier's shipyard and engine shops, then known as Robert Napier and Sons, were to be awarded sixty Admiralty contracts in his lifetime, with a profound influence on ship and engine procurement for the Navy and on foreign governments, which for the first time placed substantial work in the United Kingdom.
Having had problems with hull subcontractors and also with the installation of machinery in wooden hulls, in 1843 Napier ventured into shipbuilding with the paddle steamer Vanguard, which was built of iron. The following year the Royal Navy took delivery of the iron-hulled Jackall, enabling Napier to secure the contract for the Black Prince, Britain's second ironclad and sister ship to HMS Warrior now preserved at Portsmouth. With so much work in iron Napier instigated studies into metallurgy, and the published work of David Kirkaldy bears witness to his open-handedness in assisting the industry. This service to industry was even more apparent in 1866 when the company laid out the Skelmorlie Measured Mile on the Firth of Clyde for ship testing, a mile still in use by ships of all nations.
The greatest legacy of Robert Napier was his training of young engineers, shipbuilders and naval architects. Almost every major Scottish shipyard, and some English too, was influenced by him and many of his early foremen left to set up rival establishments along the banks of the River Clyde. His close association with Samuel Cunard led to the setting up of the company now known as the Cunard Line. Napier designed and engined the first four ships, subcontracting the hulls of this historic quartet to other shipbuilders on the river. While he contributed only 2 per cent to the equity of the shipping line, they came back to him for many more vessels, including the magnificent paddle ship Persia, of 1855.
It is an old tradition on the Clyde that the smokestacks of ships are made by the enginebuilders. The Cunard Line still uses red funnels with black bands, Napier's trademark, in honour of the engineer who set them going.
[br]
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knight Commander of the Dannebrog (Denmark). President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers 1864. Honorary Member of the Glasgow Society of Engineers 1869.
Further Reading
James Napier, 1904, The Life of Robert Napier, Edinburgh, Blackwood.
J.M.Halliday, 1980–1, "Robert Napier. The father of Clyde shipbuilding", Transactions of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland 124.
Fred M.Walker, 1984, Song of the Clyde. A History of Clyde Shipbuilding, Cambridge: PSL.
See also: Fairbairn, William; Thomson, Sir William
FMW

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

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Napier, Robert Napier, 1st Baron — ▪ British field marshal born Dec. 6, 1810, Colombo, Ceylon [now Sri Lanka] died Jan. 14, 1890, London, Eng.       British field marshal, who had a distinguished military and civil engineering career in India and commanded military expeditions to… …   Universalium

  • Robert Napier & Sons — Robert Napier. Robert Napier Sons war ein Maschinen und Schiffbauunternehmen in Govan, Glasgow in Schottland. Das Unternehmen bestand von 1811 bis 1900 und gilt als Wegbereiter im Dampfschiffsbau und als Schrittmacher des Schiffbaus am Fluss… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Cornelis Napier — Robert Cornelis Napier, 1. Baron Napier von Magdala Robert Cornelis Napier, 1. Baron Napier von Magdala, GCB, GCSI, CIE, (* 6. Dezember 1810 in Colombo; † 14. Januar 1890 in London) war ein …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Cornelis Napier, 1. Baron Napier of Magdala — Robert Cornelis Napier, 1. Baron Napier von Magdala Robert Cornelis Napier, 1. Baron Napier von Magdala, GCB, GCSI, CIE, (* 6. Dezember 1810 in Colombo; † 14. Januar 1890 in London) war ein …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Cornelis Napier, 1. Baron Napier von Magdala — Robert Cornelis Napier, 1. Baron Napier von Magdala, GCB, GCSI, CIE, (* 6. Dezember 1810 in Colombo; † 14. Januar 1890 in London) war ein …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • NAPIER R — UNITED KINGDOM (see also List of Individuals) 18.6.1791 Dumbarton/UK 23.6.1876 Shandon/UK Robert Napier served an apprenticeship with his father. In 1815 he commenced business in Glasgow; it expanded through the preparedness to build steam… …   Hydraulicians in Europe 1800-2000

  • Robert Napier (1er baron Napier de Magdala) — Field Marshal Robert Cornelis Napier Naissance 6 décembre 1810 Ceylan …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Robert Napier (engineer) — Robert Napier (21 June 1791 23 June 1876) was a Scottish engineer, and is often called The Father of Clyde Shipbuilding . Early lifeRobert Napier was born in Dumbarton at the height of the Industrial Revolution, to James and Jean Napier. James… …   Wikipedia

  • Robert Stigwood — (born April 16, 1934 in Adelaide, South Australia) is an Australian born impresario and entertainment entrepreneur. In the 1960s and 1970s he was one of the most successful figures in the entertainment world, through his management of music… …   Wikipedia

  • Robert Napier, 1. Baron Napier of Magdala — Robert Cornelis Napier, 1. Baron Napier von Magdala Robert Cornelis Napier, 1. Baron Napier von Magdala, GCB, GCSI, CIE, (* 6. Dezember 1810 in Colombo; † 14. Januar …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.