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George Stephenson, British engineer

George Stephenson, British engineer

C021/9114

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Credit

MARIA PLATT-EVANS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MARIA PLATT-EVANS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

George Stephenson (1781-1848), English engineer known 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 obtained a basic education at night school, working at various pits until settling at Killingworth. In 1811 he fixed the mine's pumping engine so well that he was appointed enginewright. Following a visit by Trevithick, Stephenson designed his first steam locomotive, the 'Blucher', in 1814, and in 1821 built the first railway between Stockton and Darlington with the engine 'Locomotion'. The distance he set between rails, 4ft 8.5in (1440mm) remains the world's effective standard guage. He invented a miners' safety lamp in 1818, independently of Davy, but was only recognised as such after years of legal wrangling. He also designed the fist skew arch bridge, allowing roads and canals to cross railways at acute angles.

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