Herreshoff, Nathaniel Greene

Herreshoff, Nathaniel Greene
SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
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b. 18 March 1848 Bristol, Rhode Island, USA
d. 2 June 1938 Bristol, Rhode Island, USA
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American naval architect and designer of six successful America's Cup defenders.
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Herreshoff, or, as he was known, Captain Nat, was seventh in a family of nine, four of whom became blind in childhood. Association with such problems may have sharpened his appreciation of shape and form; indeed, he made a lengthy European small-boat trip with a blind brother. While working on yacht designs, he used three-dimensional models in conjunction with the sheer draught on the drawing-board. With many of the family being boatbuilders, he started designing at the age of 16 and then decided to make this his career. As naval architecture was not then a graduating subject, he studied mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While still studying, c.1867, he broke new ground by preparing direct reading time handicapping tables for yachts up to 110 ft (33.5 m) long. After working with the Corliss Company, he set up the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, in partnership with J.B.Herreshoff, as shipbuilders and engineers. Over the years their output included steam machinery, fishing vessels, pleasure craft and racing yachts. They built the first torpedo boat for the US Navy and another for the Royal Navy, the only such acquisition in the late nineteenth century. Herreshoff designed six of the world's greatest yachts, of the America's Cup, between 1890 and 1920. His accomplishments included new types of lightweight wood fasteners, new systems of framing, hollow spars and better methods of cutting sails. He continued to work full-time until 1935 and his work was internationally acclaimed. He maintained cordial relations with his British rivals Fife, Nicholson and G.L. Watson, and enjoyed friendship with his compatriot Edward Burgess. Few will ever match Herreshoff as an all-round engineer and designer.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Herreshoff was one of the very few, other than heads of state, to become an Honorary Member of the New York Yacht Club.
Further Reading
L.F.Herreshoff, 1953, Capt. Nat Herreshoff. The Wizard of Bristol, White Plains, NY: Sheridan House; 2nd edn 1981.
FMW

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

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