Sir Charles Parsons, British engineer

Sir Charles Parsons, British engineer

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Credit: GEORGE GRANTHAM BAIN COLLECTION/LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Sir Charles Parsons (1854-1931), British engineer and inventor, best known for his invention of the steam turbine in 1884. Conventional steam engines had powered industry since the 1750s but Parsons recognised that the process could be made more efficient. Instead of using the steam to drive the pistons, he used it to turn a rotor directly. In due course, his turbines were powering generating stations all over the world. Realising its potential, Parsons built an experimental boat, the Turbinia, and by 1897 it could do an unheard of 34 knots. It revolutionised marine transport and naval warfare, his engine being commissioned for all British warships. Charles was knighted in 1911.

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