Foolish projects. Robert Fulton

American Robert Fulton, who was an extremely talented and distinctive engineer, was fond of mechanics since his childhood. At the age of twelve he got interested in steam engines and two years after he built his own boat, which moved with the help of wheel engine with hand gear. When he achieved the full legal age, Fulton made his way to England, where he studied architecture and arts. However, he didn’t change his first passion and kept on making schemes of his future ships.

In 1793 Fulton appealed to the governments of England and USA with his projects, but the ship that existed only on paper, didn’t attract anybody’s attention. The offended inventor left for France, where he created a model of submarine. Though, the boat was conducted by muscular power of two sailors, it had a very interesting type of armament. It consisted of a small barrel of gunpowder, which was to be fixed to the bottom of the enemy’s boat and then to be blew up.

Having tested the model in the waters of Le Havre successfully, Robert Fulton appealed to Napoleon himself with his project.

  • You offer me to use a slow-speed barrel full of gunpowder against English high-speed frigates? – Napoleon was indignant. – The things I absolutely need are high-speed ships for transporting my army through English Channel!
  • My invention could be used at night time for attacking ports and ships which stay in the roads, - explained Fulton. – And if you need speed, for this case I have a project of ship with steam engine..
  • I’m not interested in such kind of offers! – refused Napoleon. – They offer me tens like this every day. One week ago an inventor like you informed me that if we put on the harness he created on dolphins, the shoal of them would transport the ship full of soldiers to England for half an hour. Thanks that you haven’t offered me to put the soldiers directly on dolphins! Never! Excuse me, but I can’t waste my time on such foolish projects!

After receiving refusal from French emperor, Fulton was about to give up, but finally a reasonable person was found and he valued his projects. The man was American diplomat Robert Livingston. He offered Robert Fulton to start building his ship and the inventor got busy. After two years a ship about twenty meters in length, that was equipped with weak steam engine, was tested on river Siene. The eye-witnesses and correspondents were terrified by the results of the trial – Fulton’s ship moved against stream with the speed of three knots! And, as correspondents mentioned, there could not be seen any rowers.

The success of Robert Fulton’s tests inspired American government. The inventor was given a big sum of money for the order of famous company “Bolton and Watt” for building a more powerful steam engine. In the beginning of 1806 the order was carried out and delivered to New York, where Fulton arrived at the same time. In the summer of the following year Fulton’s new steamer passed the tests successfully – that was the start of new era of steam ships.

Napoleon, who announced himself as the emperor of France and was extremely busy with government and military business, missed the news about the event. The first time he saw a steam ship was only in 1815, when he was on his way to banishment..

  • What’s this? – asked Napoleon being interested.

Having heard the explanation, he remembered about Robert Fulton and his offer, and sighed deeply:

  • And these steam ships could bring me the whole world! So, that American appeared to be more far-seeing than me..

Fortunately for the former emperor, he never learnt what great role would play submarines for the whole world..