Ericsson, John

Ericsson, John
b. 31 July 1803 Farnebo, Sweden
d. 8 March 1899 New York, USA
Swedish (naturalized American 1848) engineer and inventor.
The son of a mine owner and inspector, Ericsson's first education was private and haphazard. War with Russia disrupted the mines and the father secured a position on the Gotha Canal, then under construction. He enrolled John, then aged 13, and another son as cadets in a corps of military engineers engaged on the canal. There John was given a sound education and training in the physical sciences and engineering. At the age of 17 he decided to enlist in the Army, and on receiving a commission he was drafted to cartographic survey duties. After some years he decided that a career outside the Army offered him the best opportunities, and in 1826 he moved to London to pursue a career of mechanical invention.
Ericsson first developed a heat (external combustion) engine, which proved unsuccessful. Three years later he designed and constructed the steam locomotive Novelty, which he entered in the Rainhill locomotive trials on the new Liverpool \& Manchester Railway. The engine began by performing promisingly, but it later broke down and failed to complete the test runs. Later he devised a self-regulating lead (1835) and then, more important and successful, he invented the screw propeller, patented in 1835 and installed in his first screw-propelled ship of 1839. This work was carried out independently of Sir Francis Pettit Smith, who contemporaneously developed a four-bladed propeller that was adopted by the British Admiralty. Ericsson saw that with screw propulsion the engine could be below the waterline, a distinct advantage in warships. He crossed the Atlantic to interest the American government in his ideas and became a naturalized citizen in 1848. He pioneered the gun turret for mounting heavy guns on board ship. Ericsson came into his own during the American Civil War, with the construction of the epoch-making warship Monitor, a screw-propelled ironclad with gun turret. This vessel demonstrated its powers in a signal victory at Hampton Roads on 9 March 1862.
Ericsson continued to design warships and torpedoes, pointing out to President Lincoln that success in war would now depend on technological rather than numerical superiority. Meanwhile he continued to pursue his interest in heat engines, and from 1870 to 1888 he spent much of his time and resources in pursuing research into alternative energy sources, such as solar power, gravitation and tidal forces.
Further Reading
W.C.Church, 1891, Life of John Ericsson, 2 vols, London.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Ericsson, John — born July 31, 1803, Långbanshyttan, Swed. died March 8, 1889, New York, N.Y., U.S. Swedish U.S. naval engineer and inventor. He moved to England in 1826, where he constructed a steam locomotive (1829) and later devised a caloric engine and… …   Universalium

  • Ericsson,John — Er·ics·son (ĕrʹĭk sən), John. 1803 1889. American engineer and inventor who built the first ironclad warship, the Monitor (1862), which engaged the Confederate Merrimack in a famous naval battle of the Civil War (March 9, 1862). * * * …   Universalium

  • Ericsson, John — (31 jul. 1803, Långbanshyttan, Suecia–8 mar. 1889, Nueva York, N.Y., EE.UU.). Ingeniero naval e inventor sueco estadounidense. Se trasladó a Inglaterra en 1826, donde construyó una locomotora de vapor (1829) y más tarde ideó una máquina térmica y …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • ERICSSON, JOHN —    a distinguished Swedish engineer, born at Langbanshyttan; went to England in 1826 and to United States of America in 1839, where he died; invented the screw propeller of steamships; built warships for the American navy, and amongst them the… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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