Stephenson, George (17811848)

Stephenson, George, inventor of the locomotive, born, the son of a poor colliery engineman, at Wylam, near Newcastle; was early set to work, first as a cowherd and then as a turnip-hoer, and by 15 was earning 12s. a week as fireman at Throckley Bridge Colliery, diligently the while acquiring the elements of education; married at 21, and supplemented his wage as brakesman at Killingworth Colliery by mending watches and shoes; in 1815 invented a safety-lamp for miners, which brought him a public testimonial of £1000; while at Killingworth turned his attention to the application of steam to machinery, and thus constructed his first locomotive in 1814 for the colliery tram-road; railway and locomotive construction now became the business of his life; superintended the construction of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (1821-25), the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (1826-29), over which he ran his locomotive the “Rocket” at a maximum rate of 35 m. an hour; in the outburst of railway enterprise which now ensued Stephenson's services were in requisition all over the country; became principal engineer on many of the new railways; bought the country-seat of Tapton, near Chesterfield, to which he retired for much-needed rest; a man of character, gentle and simple in his affections, strong and purposeful in his labours, who, as he himself says, “fought for the locomotive single-handed for nearly 20 years,” and “put up with every rebuff, determined not to be put down” (17811848).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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