John Ericsson

John Ericsson
John Ericsson 2.jpg
Born(1803-07-31)July 31, 1803
DiedMarch 8, 1889(1889-03-08) (aged 85)
New York, United States
OccupationEngineer, innovator
John Ericsson signature.svg

John Ericsson (born Johan) (July 31, 1803 – March 8, 1889) was a Swedish-American inventor.[1] He was active in England and the United States, and was regarded as one of the most influential mechanical engineers ever. Ericsson collaborated on the design of the steam locomotive Novelty, which competed in the Rainhill Trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which were won by George Stephenson's Rocket. In America he designed the US Navy's first screw-propelled steam-frigate USS Princeton, in partnership with Captain Robert Stockton, who unjustly blamed him for a fatal accident. A new partnership with Cornelius H. DeLamater of the DeLamater Iron Works in New York resulted in the first armoured ship with a rotating turret, USS Monitor, which dramatically saved the US naval blockading squadron from destruction by an ironclad Confederate vessel, CSS Virginia, at Hampton Roads in March 1862.

Early career

John Ericsson

Johan Ericsson was born at Långban in Värmland, Sweden. He was the brother of Nils Ericson, a distinguished canal and railway builder in Sweden. Their father Olaf Ericsson (1778–1818) had worked as the supervisor for a mine in Värmland. He had lost money in speculation and had to move his family to Forsvik in 1810. There he worked as a director of blastings during the excavation of the Swedish Göta Canal.[2][3][4]

The extraordinary skills of the two Ericsson brothers were discovered by Baltzar von Platen, the architect of the Göta Canal. They were dubbed 'cadets of mechanics' of the Swedish Royal Navy, and engaged as trainees at the canal enterprise. At the age of fourteen, John was already working independently as a surveyor. His assistant had to carry a footstool for him to reach the instruments during surveying work. At the age of seventeen he joined the Swedish army in Jämtland, serving in the Jämtland Ranger Regiment, as a Second Lieutenant, but was soon promoted to Lieutenant. He was sent to northern Sweden to do surveying, and in his spare time he constructed a heat engine which used the fumes from the fire instead of steam as a propellant. His skill and interest in mechanics made him resign from the army and move to England in 1826. However his heat engine was not a success, as his prototype was designed to burn birchwood and would not work well with coal (the main fuel used in England).[5]

Novelty, Braithwaite and Ericsson's entry for the Rainhill Trials. Illustration from The Mechanics Magazine, 1829.
German drawing (1833) of the steam locomotive Wilhelm IV with scale in feet, built by "Braithwaite und Ericsson".

Notwithstanding the disappointment, he invented several other mechanisms instead based on steam, improving the heating process by incorporating bellows to increase oxygen supply to the fire bed. In 1829 he and John Braithwaite built Novelty for the Rainhill Trials arranged by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. It was widely praised but suffered recurring boiler problems, and the competition was won by English engineers George and Robert Stephenson with Rocket.

Two further engines were built by Braithwaite and Ericsson, named William IV and Queen Adelaide after the new king and queen. These were generally larger and more robust than Novelty and differed in several details (for example it is thought that a different design of blower was used which was an 'Induced Draught' type, sucking the gases from the fire). The pair ran trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway but the railway declined to purchase the new designs.

Their innovative steam fire engine proved an outstanding technical success by helping to quell the memorable Argyll Rooms fire[6] on February 5, 1830[7] (where it worked for five hours when the other engines were frozen up),[8][9] but was met with resistance from London's established 'Fire Laddies' and municipal authorities. An engine Braithwaite and Ericsson constructed for Sir John Ross's 1829 Arctic expedition failed and was dumped on the shores of Prince Regent Inlet. At this stage of Ercisson's career the most successful and enduring of his inventions was the surface condenser, which allowed a steamer to recover fresh water for its boilers while at sea. His 'deep sea lead,' a pressure-activated fathometer was another minor, but enduring success. The commercial failure and development costs of some of the machines devised and built by Ericsson during this period put him into debtors' prison for an interval. At this time he also married 19-year-old Amelia Byam, a disastrous match that ended in the couple's separation until Amelia's death.

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українська: Джон Ерікссон