George Stephenson, English engineer

George Stephenson, English engineer

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Credit: GEORGE BERNARD/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: George Stephenson (1781-1848), English engineer and pioneer of steam railway locomotives, he is regarded as the father of the railways. At the age of 14, Stephenson began a job as a steam engine tender at a coal mine. He taught himself about engineering and, in 1811, showed his skill by modifying a steam engine which was used for pumping water out of a mine. His first steam locomotive was built in 1814. Called the Blucher, it could draw 30 tonnes of coal at 1.8 metres per second (4 miles per hour). With his son Robert, the Rocket was built in 1829, allowing the world's first viable passenger railway to be run.

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