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The Life of Robert Fulton. the Artist, inventor, and Civil engineer


From his circle of English friends, Fulton learned of the mechanical problems facing their country during the period of industrial expansion. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Life of Robert Fulton. the Artist, inventor, and Civil engineer

The Life of Robert Fulton. the Artist, inventor,
and Civil engineer
  • Picture above has many clues to Robert Fultons

Robert Fultons birth place.
  • Robert Fultons father, a prominent citizen of
    Lancaster with a house on Center Square, moved to
    this house to try his hand at farming. Robert
    Fulton was born here on November 14, 1765.
    Unsuccessful at farming, the family returned to
    Lancaster where Robert lived till the age of 17..

Robert Fultons birth home located in Lancaster
Picture is something like Fultons double crank
paddle wheel, that would have been on the boat.
  • As a youth young Robert attended a Quaker school
    where he exhibited talents of creativity which
    baffled his schoolmaster. His natural curiosity
    placed him in contact with neighboring artist and
    craftsmen from whom he learned to paint and
    experiment with new mechanical ideas. One of his
    youthful inventions was a double crank paddle
    wheel boat which he built and sailed for a friend
    on the nearby river.

Franklin and Fulton
  • While living in Lancaster, young Robert became
    noted for his sketches and paintings of local
    scenes. A skilled artist at 17, he moved to
    Philadelphia in 1782 where he painted portraits
    and miniature for four years.
  • Fulton was encouraged by Benjamin Franklin to
    study painting under Benjamin West in England.
    As a result, he was commissioned to paint
    portraits of famous persons.

This is not the portrait of Ben Franklin painted
by Fulton.
Fulton begins to invent.
  • From his circle of English friends, Fulton
    learned of the mechanical problems facing their
    country during the period of industrial
    expansion. Hew was fascinated by these
    challenges and began to devote more time to
    mechanical pursuits. His artistic talents,
    however, enabled him to accurately illustrate on
    paper his emerging ideas.

Becoming a Civil Engineer
  • Fulton became intrigued with the new commercial
    importance of canal building. With funds
    borrowed from his social reformer friend, Robert
    Owen, he invented a digging machine for the
    excavation of canals. This machine proved
    impractical but was a first step in the
    mechanical excavation of earth.
  • In 1796 Fulton published A Treatise on the
    Improvement of Canal Navigation, which contained
    his ideas for canal construction and included his
    drawings and illustrations.

Fulton moves to France.
  • In 1797 Fulton moved to France where he took up
    residence with the noted American poet and
    diplomat, Joel Barlow.

Fulton and Naval History.
  • While living in France, during the early
    Napoleonic years, Fulton envisioned naval
    machines which would be so powerful as to deter
    marine warfare. With this idea in mind he
    developed the torpedo and the submarine.

Fulton and Napoleon. Destiny Avoided?
  • Hoping to gain favorable attention from Napoleon
    for his new invention, Fulton blew up a forty
    foot sloop at Brest with a torpedo fired from his
    newly designed submarine, Nautilus. To Fultons
    disappointment neither France nor England was
    interested at this time in his naval inventions.

Fultons Submarine.
  • Building upon the ideas of earlier men, Fulton
    designed his submarine, the Nautilus, in the
    shape of an ellipsoid. By means of a hand
    cranked suction and force pump, water was
    introduce or removed from the keel making the
    vessel rise or lower in the water at will. On
    the top forward part of the ship was spherical
    dome with port holes for observation. For
    propulsion Fulton designed a hand cranked

Partnering with Livingston
  • While in Europe Fulton refined his ideas about
    the use of steam to propel a boat. Through Joel
    Barlow, Fulton was introduced to Robert
    Livingston who was then American Minister to
    France. Livingston was fascinated by Fultons
    steamboat vision and offered to become his
    financial partner in its development.

Fulton Returns Home to build a ship.
  • Fulton succeeded in constructing a steamboat on
    the Seine River only to have it break in two with
    the engine sinking to the bottom. Undaunted,
    Fulton tried again and proved that steam could
    propel a boat through water. Livingston
    immediately relayed the potential of the
    steamboat to his home state of New York where he
    received the right to build and operate a
    steamboat on the Hudson River.
  • In the fall of 1806, Fulton returned to America
    after twenty years absence to fulfill his dream,
    shared by Livingston, of providing steam powered
    navigation on American Rivers.

Scale Model of the Clermont. Picture taken at
the Robert Fulton Museum.
Building the Clermont.
  • Fultons fame rests most securely on his
    successful building and operation of the
    steamboat in America. After ordering the
    manufacture of a steam engine from the English
    firm of Boulton and Watt, he made arrangement to
    build his boat in a dock in New Yorks East

Fultons monster.
  • When finished the craft was 149 feet long and
    approximately 13 feet wide. Two paddle wheels
    were set, one on each side, slightly front of
    center. Comfortable seats were installed to make
    travel pleasurable. Food was ordered, guest
    invited, and the date set for the initial trip up
    the Hudson.

The North Rivers Maiden Voyage.
  • Withstanding much ridicule, Fulton confidently
    put the finishing touches on his steamboat making
    it ready for Monday afternoon, August 17, 1807
    when a lively party boarding for the maiden
    voyage. After a slight delay the boat glided out
    into the river and began the 150 mile journey to
    Albany New York, completing it in 32 hours
    running time. The original name of this
    steamboat was the North River, later changed to
    the Clermont after Robert Livingstons Hudson
    River estate.

The above picture is called Fultons Monster.
  • Encouraged by success, Fulton expanded his
    steamboat enterprise by adding more boats to the
    line during the next few years. He later
    supervised the construction of two steam powered
    ferries. In 1813 he designed and built the first
    steam propelled warship for the U.S., the

Marriage and Death.
  • Shortly after Fultons steamboat triumph on the
    Hudson River, he married Harriet Livingston, the
    niece of Robert Livingston. His later life was
    spent happily in new York City with his wife and
    four children.
  • He died February 24, 1815 at the age of 49 and is
    buried in the churchyard of Trinity
    Church in Lower