Henry Bell - Encyclopedia


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HENRY BELL (1767-1830), Scottish engineer, was born at Torphichen, Linlithgowshire, in 1767. Having received the ordinary education of a parish school, he was apprenticed to his uncle, a millwright, and, after qualifying himself as a ship-modeller at Bo'ness, went to London, where he found employment under John Rennie, the celebrated engineer. Returning to Scotland in 1790, he first settled as a carpenter at Glasgow and afterwards removed to Helensburgh, on the Firth of Clyde, where he pursued his mechanical projects, and also found occasional employment as an engineer. In January 1812 he placed on the Clyde a steamboat (which he named the "Comet") of about 25 tons, propelled by an engine of three horse power, at a speed of 7 m. an hour. Although the honour of priority is admitted to belong to the American engineer Robert Fulton, there appears to be no doubt that Fulton had received very material assistance in the construction of his vessel from Bell and others in Great Britain. A handsome sum was raised for Bell by subscription among the citizens of Glasgow; and he also received from the trustees of the river Clyde a pension of X100 a year. He died at Helensburgh on the 1 4 th of November 1830. A monument to his memory stands on the banks of the Clyde, at Dunglass, near Bowling.

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