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.