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Robert Fulton
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Inventor
    (November 14, 1765-February 24, 1815)
    Born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
    Engineer/inventor
    Built the first practical submarine, The Nautilus (1800), the first commercially successful steamboat, The North River Steamboat a.k.a Clermont (1807) and the first steam-powered warship, the Demologos (1814)
    Received patents for a machine to spin flax, a dredging machine and a system for raising and lowering boats in canals
    During the Napoleonic Wars, he offered to work for both France and England.
    The French navy considered his submarine suicidal for the crew and declined to use it.
    After the Battle of Trafalgar ended the French naval threat, the British lost interest in his work.
    When he returned to America, he left his papers on submarines with the American consul, never referred to his Nautilus work again, and his papers went unpublished until 1920.
    He is often erroneously credited with inventing the steamboat.
    The state of New York granted him a monopoly on steamboat transportation on the Hudson River until a court ruled it unconstitutional.
    Before turning to naval interests, he was a painter who had two of his works exhibited at the Royal Academy in London
    The British were sufficiently impressed by the Nautilus to pay him 800 pounds to work for them (1804).
    He may not have invented the steamboat but he did make it commercially viable.
    The Clermont was such a success that within four years he had built another pair of steamboats to handle the traffic on the Hudson.
    When he died, both houses of Congress wore mourning and businesses in New York City closed for the day.
    He left his mark on the map, with six states naming counties after him.

Credit: C. Fishel


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