Born on 13rd of April 1771
Died in Dartford, Kent
Died on 22nd of April 1833
The great Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick helped forge the Industrial Revolution but it was left to others to capitalize on his breakthroughs.
Trevithick’s first notable invention was his high pressure engine of 1787 which could better the performance of James Watt’s steam engine. In 1801 Trevithick built the first road-going steam-locomotive at Camborne, which worked only for a very short time before burning out. (This failure might have been avoided and history changed had Trevithick and his pals not resorted to a nearby pub). In 1803 Trevithick came up with the first steam-driven road vehicle. Then in 1804 he designed a railway engine which was powerful enough to pull 10 tons of iron and 70 men. Like so many of Trevithick’s inventions it was ahead of its time. The rails which could support this beast had yet to be built, and the existing ones broke under the excessive weight.
Undeterred, Trevithick took his invention to London where he built a circular track for his machine in Euston Square, charging passengers to ride the novelty. Again the rails could not take the strain and Trevithick returned chastened to Cornwall where he developed a successful mining engine soon sold worldwide. This work led him to Peru where he operated as a consulting engineer, and where he was rewarded with the rights to a copper and silver mine. Ever unlucky, before he could reap the benefits he was caught up in a war in Peru and 10 years later returned to England still not having made his fortune, and had to be aided by fellow engineer Robert Stephenson who paid for Trevithick’s passage home.
Trevithick continued with his inventions but as always he was dogged by financial worries. In spite of his world-changing creations including the steam train, the propeller, the threshing machine and the steam dredger he was to die impoverished, his funeral expenses paid for by loyal friends. Richard Trevithick died in Dartford on April 22, 1833.
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