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Robert Fulton was an engineer, an artist, and an American inventor. He is best known for building and running the first successful commercial steamboat. He also worked on designs for an inland waterways system, a steam warship, and a submarine.
See the fact file below for more information on the Robert Fulton or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Robert Fulton worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Robert Fulton was born on November 14, 1765 in Little Britain, Pennsylvania. His family’s farm was foreclosed and they had to move to Lancaster where his father worked as a tailor. Four years later, when he was 9, his father died.
- Robert Fulton received his early education in a Quaker school in Lancaster. He spent his free time roaming around shops in the town, exhibiting an early interest in mechanical things. He was also given the name “Quicksilver Bob” by his companions because he liked experimenting with mercury and bullets, and made skyrockets to amuse himself.
- He also liked drawing and was a very good artist – so good that he became an apprentice in a jewelry shop in Philadelphia, where he expertly painted miniature portraits on lockets and rings.
- After a few years in the jewelry shop, Robert moved to Philadelphia to have a career as an artist. He made enough money from his paintings and was able to buy a farmhouse for his family.
- At 23 years old, he went to Europe for his career in arts. Even while busy painting portraits and landscapes, he continued to do mechanical experiments.
- Fulton became interested in the “Canal Mania” and was able to publish a pamphlet about canals, and had a patent on a dredging machine and other great utility inventions.
CAREER AND CONTRIBUTIONS
- In 1797, he went to Paris and studied French, German, mathematics, and chemistry which fueled his mind with the knowledge on how to make submarine boats that can be loaded with torpedoes to be fired at the hulls of enemy warships.
- He built Nautilus in 1800 and successfully submerged it to a depth of 25 feet and was able to stay there for an hour. His submarine was considered as the first practical submarine. Despite the success of this exhibit, he failed to convince the French government for aid in developing the submarine.
- He met Robert R. Livingston while he was in France and they collaborated in building a steamboat. He was able to build his first prototype, and on August 9, 1803, they drove it in the Seine River. But it broke in half and sank.
- He was then invited by the British government for the possibility of funding his submarine. In 1805, he blew up an old brig for his demonstration. But he was instead offered money to stop the development of his invention for it was deemed as inhumane warfare.
- In 1806, he went back to the U.S. and convinced the government to put up an old vessel for another demonstration but his torpedo didn’t work, making the government lose interest in adopting his device.
- Fulton and Robert Livingston met again and, after many design changes and months of work, they built the first successful commercial steamboat in 1807. He called it Steamboat, but it was renamed to North River Steamboat and was later known as Clermont.
- The steamboat was 45 meters long and was run using oak and pine fuel. It had paddle wheels on both sides at the middle of the boat.
- Clermont was then used by Livington’s shipping company to carry 60 passengers from New York to Albany on the Hudson River. It was such a success because, unlike other floating vessels and sailing sloops that took four days (96 hours) for the trip, Clermont only took 32 hours to make the same trip.
- In 1808, Fulton married Harriet Livingston, the niece of Robert Livingston. Together they had a son and three daughters.
- Fulton was also a Fellow of the American Philosophical Society and of the United States Military and Philosophical Society where he left a record of his investigations about torpedoes in an imprint entitled Torpedo War and Submarine Explosions, which was issued in 1810.
- In 1811, he was appointed by the governor of New York as a member of the Erie Canal Commision.
- In 1812, he suggested that a floating and moveable gun platform should be built in order to protect New York Harbor from British invaders. This gave birth to Demologos, which was also called Fulton, in honor of the designer. Demologos was the first steam-powered warship in the world.
DEATH AND LEGACY
- He spent a large portion of his wealth on legal action to prevent piracy of patents for steamboats and in trying to stop rivals from making better steamboats from loopholes found in his design.
- Even after the failures he had with submarines and torpedoes, he continued to invest in submarine projects. He also invested in paintings.
- He also gave financial aid to fellow farmers and artists, all of which further decreased his wealth.
- He saved his friend, Addis Emmet, who fell through the ice of the frozen Hudson river while they were walking home. It is believed that this incident gave him pneumonia which worsened when he got home.
- He died due to tuberculosis on February 24, 1815 and was buried in the Livingston vault in Trinity Churchyard, New York City.
- In 1846, thirty-one years after his death, the Congress passed a bill that gave his heirs a sum of $76,300, with no interest, as reimbursement for the contracts with the Government that he had during his death for building the Vesuvius and other war vessels.
- As a commemoration for the success of his steamboat, a replica of Clermont was built for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909.
- In 1965, a commemorative Robert Fulton stamp was issued to celebrate the bicentenary of his birth. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission also restored the two-storey farmhouse where he was born.
Robert Fulton Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Robert Fulton across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Robert Fulton worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Robert Fulton who was an engineer, an artist, and an American inventor. He is best known for building and running the first successful commercial steamboat. He also worked on designs for an inland waterways system, a steam warship, and a submarine.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Knowing Robert Fulton
- Organized Words
- What’s He Like?
- Mark the Date
- Inventor on the Rise
- Invention in my Mind
- Into the Deep
- Genius and Talent
- Great Inventions
- Word Conscious
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Link will appear as Robert Fulton Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, September 18, 2019
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