SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Fulton, an American engineer, was born near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to an Irish immigrant family. He left home to be an artist, first in Philadelphia then in London. In the UK his mechanical skills led to the invention of various ideas in canal construction, and by 1793 he was experimenting with steam-powered tugs. He moved to France where he designed the Nautilus, the first practical submarine. Back in England he designed rudimentary torpedoes. He returned to the USA, continued his work on military vessels, but also studied steamboat design. His first steamboat used a special steam engine from Watt in England and a hull design he had established through experiments with models. The flat-bottomed hull and mid-mounted paddle wheels set the design for river steamboats of the future, and he established the first successful commercial steamboat service in the world.
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