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Old 14-02-2005, 11:21   #1
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Who invented the Screw Propeller?

Who invented the Screw Propeller - otherwise known as the Archimedes screw?

John Patch ~ Uncredited Inventor of the Screw Propeller
Born: 1781 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia - Died: 1861 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

John Patch was a sailor and fisherman in the Yarmouth area of Nova Scotia. One day, while watching a small boat being manoeuvered with a single oar, he came up with the idea for a device which would allow steamships to travel without need of large, inefficient paddlewheels or wind-dependent sails. It would be thirty years before he would see his idea become reality.

During the winter of 1832-3, Patch developed and built the screw propeller, a wooden shaft with two "fans" at the end. Robert and Nathan Butler, friends of Patch, helped him by building a hand crank and wooden gears to be used with the device. Throughout the summer of 1833, Patch tested his invention in Yarmouth Harbour and, in 1834, Captain Robert Kelley agreed to put it on his 25-ton ship, the Royal George. On a subsequent trip to Saint John, the wind died, leaving other sailing vessels stranded, but the Royal George carried on. The propeller was a success.

In 1840, the British steamship, Archimedes, became the first seagoing vessel to be fitted with the device. In 1845, the Great Britain became the first large steamship to cross the Atlantic, driven by a screw propeller. By the 1850s, this method was determined to be far more efficient than sails and paddlewheels and the screw propeller is still the main form of propulsion for boats today.

There are several versions of how Patch lost the rights to his invention but the end result was that he was never recognized for it and never made any money. In 1858, over 100 citizens of Yarmouth signed a petition, asking the government to provide Patch with a pension as thanks for his work. The petition was presented to the Nova Scotia legislature but eventually rejected and Patch died penniless in a Yarmouth poorhouse.

John Ericsson ~ Credited with Propeller Invention
Born Jul 31, 1803 - Died Mar 8, 1889

John Ericsson invented the ship propeller and incorporated the landmark device into his design for the Civil War ironclad the Monitor. In 1826 he moved to London, where he showed the breadth of his engineering genius by developing or improving transmission of power by compressed air, new types of steam boilers, condensers for marine steam engines (so ships could travel farther), placing warship engines below the water line (for protection against shell fire), the steam fire-engine, the design and construction of a steam locomotive (which competed with the historic Rocket, the first steam powered locomotive), an apparatus that made salt from brine, superheated steam engines, the flame or 'caloric' engine. His most enduring invention was the screw propeller, which is still the main form of marine propulsion. Early methods of applying steam power at sea-steam-driven oars, paddle wheels-were inefficient and, for warships, vulnerable to enemy attack. In 1839 Ericsson introduced propellers to vessels on the canals and inland waterways and commenced building a 'big frigate' for the U.S. Navy. He designed and built the Monitor for the Union Navy in 100 working days. It demonstrated its superior design-steam-propelled screw propeller, low in the water, a revolving gun turret, and iron construction rather than wood-by defeating the Confederate Merrimac.

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Old 14-02-2005, 17:17   #2
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Bushnell-Possible earlier screw inventor

Reading one of my historical naval books reminded me about the American Turtle built in 1776 by David Bushnell. This was the first submarine to be used in combat was moved underwater by a hand cranked propeller. The one-man, hand-propelled submarine was designed simply to transport the bomb to the enemy vessel. (it wasn't effective but it was the first)

So did these guys possible copy an earlier design...........

What we need is the Mr Peabody's Wayback machine to answer these and many more questions.

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Old 28-02-2005, 17:50   #3
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I want to know more about Mr. Peabody and Wayback

I've missed this (what seems to be a tantalizing reference to some good writing) reference. Who is Mr. Peabody? What is the writing? Thanks,
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Old 01-03-2005, 12:46   #4
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Mr PEabody and his pet boy Sherman

Sorry about the obscure reference. Mr Peabody and hispet boy Sherman were characters from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show in the USA.

Mr Peabody was a genius dog who invented time travel. He and Sherman would go Way Back to various historical events. This way we see how history really happened!

The Turtle can be found in history books to the Discovery Channel. It is a great read and very interesting to learn about the first.


U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History
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Old 13-01-2006, 06:11   #5
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Inventor or Improver?

Think we all know Archimedes 'invented' the screw device way back.

To my knowledge Leonaro da Vinci was earliest know chappie to use those same principals to design a propeller around 1450 which was shown on his helicopter and submarine plans - maybe these were copied in the US Civil War designs referred to above?

It was a Czech named something like Ressel who was first to lodge any form of design patent on the propeller in his own country in 1826. Rumour was that the Brits stole the Czech's idea and built one into the first screw driven ship contructed ever - in the UK - in the same decade.

The Swedish chap Ericssen did file a USA design patent, but records show that was in 1838 - 12 years after the Czech - and earlier than the claimed trials by the Nova Scotian.

I'm certain all parties helped improve upon the orginal designs - but clearly neither the Swede, nor the Nova Scotian, nor the Cvil War era designer, can be rightly titled 'the inventor' of the propeller.

That title must be reserved for either the Greek, the Italian, or the Czech - dependant of course, on your definition of 'inventor'.

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Old 13-01-2006, 12:12   #6
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Hmmm, it's kinda like buying a car by getting a Garage first. A propellor was invented before any seriuose means to drive it came along huh.
Reminds me of the Irish invention of the Toilet seat way back in 1261. But it didn't sell to well, and in order to save costs, in 1262 someone cut a hole in it.

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Old 13-01-2006, 15:15   #7
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Toilet seat

And much later came the Birch John society for the preservation of wooden ( Birch ) toilet seats.

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