The Steamboat

Crossing the water faster than ever! By Zachary Patterson

Who is the inventor?

Robert Fulton, (born Nov. 14, 1765, Lancaster county, Pa. [U.S.]—died Feb. 24, 1815, New York, N.Y.), American inventor, engineer, and artist who brought steamboating from the experimental stage to commercial success. He also designed a system of inland waterways, a submarine, and a steam warship.

How does the Invention Work?

In the most general sense, a ship is an investment that is to be operated in such a manner that the investors’ expectations with respect to returns are met. A freight rate must be obtained so that all expenses are covered, with a remainder sufficient for the returns on investment. In analysis of the economic merit of a shipping project, this rate is often referred to as the required freight rate. Actual freight rates are set by market conditions and inevitably fluctuate during the life of a ship.

What is the purpose of the invention?

The purpose of the steamboat was to get over the ocean faster to get to your destinations. When Robert Fulton constructed it, he did a test run from New York to Albany, and also had some people on it who where trying to get to where they needed to be quicker, even at the cost of a malfuntion.

Where did this invention occur?

Arriving in New York in December 1806, Fulton at once set to work supervising the construction of the steamboat that had been planned in Paris with Livingston. He also attempted to interest the U.S. government in a submarine, but his demonstration of it was a fiasco. By early August 1807 a 150-foot- (45-metre-) long “Steamboat,” as Fulton called it, was ready for trials. Its single-cylinder condensing steam engine (24-inch bore and four-foot stroke) drove two 15-foot-diameter side paddlewheels; it consumed oak and pine fuel, which produced steam at a pressure of two to three pounds per square inch. The 150-mile (240-kilometre) trial run from New York to Albany required 32 hours (an average of almost 4.7 miles [7.6 kilometres] per hour), considerably better time than the four miles per hour required by the monopoly. The passage was epic because sailing sloops required four days for the same trip.

When did the invention occur?

By early August 1807 a 150-foot- (45-metre-) long “Steamboat,” as Fulton called it, was ready for trials. Its single-cylinder condensing steam engine (24-inch bore and four-foot stroke) drove two 15-foot-diameter side paddlewheels; it consumed oak and pine fuel, which produced steam at a pressure of two to three pounds per square inch.

Why was there a need for this invention?

Building a ship that can be neither sunk nor capsized is beyond practicality, but a ship can be designed to survive moderate damage and, if sinking is inevitable, to sink slowly and without capsizing in order to maximize the survival chances of the people aboard. Most ships before the steamboat were not like this, so a crash could mean about half the people on board could die.

Why is this invention important to history?

Without Robert Fulton and his creation of the steamboat, we might still be stuck with flimsy and easily breakable ships. Regular ships were much slower than steamboats, so trips would take longer, and more people could catch sicknesses that are common while out at sea. With the steamboat, the trip would take almost half as long as it normally would. This means food stocks wouldn't deplete as fast, less people could catch sickness, and it could be easier to escape in times of crisis.

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