Gurney, Sir Goldsworthy

Gurney, Sir Goldsworthy
b. 14 February 1793 Treator, near Padstow, Cornwall, England
d. 28 February 1875 Reeds, near Bude, Cornwall, England
English pioneer of steam road transport.
Educated at Truro Grammar School, he then studied under Dr Avery at Wadebridge to become a doctor of medicine. He settled as a surgeon in Wadebridge, spending his leisure time in building an organ and in the study of chemistry and mechanical science. He married Elizabeth Symons in 1814, and in 1820 moved with his wife to London. He delivered a course of lectures at the Surrey Institution on the elements of chemical science, attended by, amongst others, the young Michael Faraday. While there, Gurney made his first invention, the oxyhydrogen blowpipe. For this he received the Gold Medal of the Society of Arts. He experimented with lime and magnesia for the production of an illuminant for lighthouses with some success. He invented a musical instrument of glasses played like a piano.
In 1823 he started experiments related to steam and locomotion which necessitated taking a partner in to his medical practice, from which he resigned shortly after. His objective was to produce a steam-driven vehicle to run on common roads. His invention of the steam-jet of blast greatly improved the performance of the steam engine. In 1827 he took his steam carriage to Cyfarthfa at the request of Mr Crawshaw, and while there applied his steam-jet to the blast furnaces, greatly improving their performance in the manufacture of iron. Much of the success of George Stephenson's steam engine, the Rocket was due to Gurney's steam blast.
In July 1829 Gurney made a historic trip with his road locomotive. This was from London to Bath and back, which was accomplished at a speed of 18 mph (29 km/h) and was made at the instigation of the Quartermaster-General of the Army. So successful was the carriage that Sir Charles Dance started to run a regular service with it between Gloucester and Cheltenham. This ran for three months without accident, until Parliament introduced prohibitive taxation on all self-propelled vehicles. A House of Commons committee proposed that these should be abolished as inhibiting progress, but this was not done. Sir Goldsworthy petitioned Parliament on the harm being done to him, but nothing was done and the coming of the railways put the matter beyond consideration. He devoted his time to finding other uses for the steam-jet: it was used for extinguishing fires in coal-mines, some of which had been burning for many years; he developed a stove for the production of gas from oil and other fatty substances, intended for lighthouses; he was responsible for the heating and the lighting of both the old and the new Houses of Parliament. His evidence after a colliery explosion resulted in an Act of Parliament requiring all mines to have two shafts. He was knighted in 1863, the same year that he suffered a stroke which incapacitated him. He retired to his house at Reeds, near Bude, where he was looked after by his daughter, Anna.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knighted 1863. Society of Arts Gold Medal.

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

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