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Sir William Congreve, the 2nd Baronet, was an English inventor and artillery officer.
See the fact file below for more information on Sir William Congreve or alternatively, you can download our 27-page Sir William Congreve worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Sir William Congreve, the 2nd Baronet, was born on May 20, 1772, in London, England. He was the eldest son of Lt. General Sir William Congreve, 1st Baronet, and Rebeca Elmston. His father was the comptroller of the Royal Laboratories at the Royal Arsenal.
- Congreve spent his education in Hackney at Newcome’s school, Wolverhampton Grammar School, and Singlewell in Kent. He graduated BA in 1793 and MA in 1796 at Trinity College after studying law. By 1814, Congreve succeeded his father as second Baronet Congreve.
- In 1803, Congreve volunteered in the London and Westminster Light Horse and became a London businessman who published a controversial newspaper, the ‘Royal Standard and Political Register.’ The newspaper was a Tory Member Parliament, pro-government and anti-Cobbett.
- In 1804, Congreve experienced a damaging libel against it, and he decided to stop publishing and started focusing on inventing various things. Previously, at the Royal Laboratory in Woolwich by Lt. General Thomas Desaguliers, several unsuccessful experiments had happened.
- In the same year, Congreve started his experimentation with rockets at Woolwich. He became the comptroller of the Royal Laboratory in Woolwich from 1814 up until his death.
Before The Invention Of The Congreve Rockets
- The first iron-cased rockets were the Mysorean Rockets that were successfully developed and deployed for military use. The 18th-century ruler of Mysore, Hyder Ali, and his son, Tipu Sultan, used these rockets during the Anglo-Mysore Wars against the forces of the East India Company.
- These rockets were fitted with swords and can travel hundreds of metres through the air before coming down with edges facing the enemy.
- In the battles at Seringapatam in 1792 and 1799, Mysorean rockets were used in minimal effect against the British. The British’s experiences with the Mysorean Rockets were mentioned in Munro’s book of 1789, which lead to the start of the Royal Arsenal military rocket R&D program in 1801.
- Several rocket cases were gathered from Mysore and were sent to Britain for analysis. The development with the rockets was chiefly the work of William Congreve, who set up a research and development program at the Woolwich Arsenal’s laboratory.
- After completing the developments with the rockets, it was manufactured in quantity further north, in Waltham Abbey, Essex.
- It was reported that Congreve mainly based his rockets on the Mysorean rockets. Also, it has been mentioned that he adapted the iron-cased gunpowder rockets for use by the British military from prototypes created by Roberts Emmet, Irish nationalist, during the Emmet’s Rebellion in 1803.
- However, the latter was far less likely to happen because the British have been exposed to Indian rockets since 1780 at the latest.
The Congreve Rockets
- In 1805, Congreve demonstrated his first solid-fuel rockets at the Royal Arsenal. His work was considered sufficiently advanced to engage in two Royal Navy attacks at Boulogne, France, one during the same year and one in the following year.
- Two years after, Congreve and sixteen Ordnance Department civilian employees were present, during which 300 rockets contributed to the conflagration of the city at the Bombardment of Copenhagen.
- Congreve rockets were successfully used as the key to the Napoleonic Wars. It was deployed significantly as the most important employment of the weapon at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.
- In the American National Anthem, the ‘rockets’ red glare’ depicts their firing at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. In January 1814, the Royal Artillery adopted various companies armed with rockets into two Rocket Troops within the Royal Horse Artillery.
- They stayed in the arsenal of the United Kingdom until the 1850s. In 1814 and 1821, Congreve organized impressive firework displays in London for peace and the coronation of George IV, respectively.
- Congreve has made several inventions aside from the Congreve Rockets. He focused on being an inventor until his death. He was able to register 18 patents, of which two were for rockets.
- Congreve’s inventions include a gun-recoil mounting, a time-fuze, hydropneumatic canal lock and sluice, rocket parachute attachment, the perpetual motion machine, process of color printing (which was widely used in Germany), a new form of a steam engine, and a method of consuming smoke.
- Congreve also registered patents for a clock in which the time was measured by a ball rolling along a zigzag track on an inclined plane. He also made improvements in the manufacturing of gunpowder, stereotypes plates, fireworks, and gas meters.
Awards, Recognitions, Personal Life
- In 1811, Congreve was awarded the honorary rank of lieutenant colonel in the Hanoverian army’s artillery and later became major general in the same army. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in March 1811.
- In 1813, Congreve was awarded the Order of St. George after the Battle of Leipzig. Three years later, he was made Knight Commander of the Royal Guelphic Order. In 1821, he was also awarded the Order of the Sword by the King of Sweden.
- Regarding Congreve’s personal life, he lived with a mistress and became a father of two illegitimate sons. In December 1824, Congreve was able to marry Isabella Carvalho at Wessel, Prussia.
- Isabella Carvalho was a young woman of Portuguese descent and a widow of Henry Nisbett McEvoy. Congreve and Carvalho had two sons and a daughter.
- During the same year, Congreve became the general manager of the English Association for Gas Lighting on the Continent. It was a sizeable business that produces gas for several cities in mainland Europe.
- In May 1828, Congreve died in Toulouse, France, at the age of 55. He was buried in the Protestant and Jewish cemetery of Chemin du Béarnais.
Sir William Congreve Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Sir William Congreve Worksheets across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Sir William Congreve worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Sir William Congreve who was an English inventor and artillery officer. He was a pioneer distinguished for his development and deployment of Congreve Rockets that encouraged an early wave of enthusiasm in utilizing rockets for military purposes in Europe.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Sir William Congreve Facts
- Congreve’s Profile
- Honoring the 2nd Congreve
- Father and Son
- The Congreve Rockets
- Congreve’s Life
- Before the Rockets
- Fact or Bluff
- War or Peace
- Mysorean vs Congreve
- Stop the Wars
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