Born Jul 31 1803 - Died Mar 8 1889
Propelling Steam Vessels
Patent Number(s) 588
John Ericsson invented the ship propeller and incorporated the landmark device into his design for the Civil War ironclad the Monitor. In 1826 he moved to London, where he showed the breadth of his engineering genius by developing or improving transmission of power by compressed air, new types of steam boilers, condensers for marine steam engines (so ships could travel farther), placing warship engines below the water line (for protection against shell fire), the steam fire-engine, the design and construction of a steam locomotive (which competed with the historic Rocket, the first steam powered locomotive), an apparatus that made salt from brine, superheated steam engines, the flame or 'caloric' engine. His most enduring invention was the screw propeller, which is still the main form of marine propulsion. Early methods of applying steam power at sea-steam-driven oars, paddle wheels-were inefficient and, for warships, vulnerable to enemy attack. In 1839 Ericsson introduced propellers to vessels on the canals and inland waterways and commenced building a 'big frigate' for the U.S. Navy. He designed and built the Monitor for the Union Navy in 100 working days. It demonstrated its superior design-steam-propelled screw propeller, low in the water, a revolving gun turret, and iron construction rather than wood-by defeating the Confederate Merrimac.
Ericsson’s double screw propeller made warships and cargo ships faster because they were no longer dependent on sails. His propeller also became the basis for screw propellers on modern day submarines, and the Wright brothers used his basic idea to design airplane propellers.