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Stephenson, George

George Stephenson, 1781–1848, British engineer, noted as a locomotive builder. He learned to read and write in night school at the age of 18, while working in a colliery. He constructed (1814) a traveling engine, or locomotive, to haul coal from mines and in 1815 built the first locomotive to use the steam blast. He also devised (c.1815) a miner's safety lamp at about the same time as did Sir Humphry Davy, whose lamp was adopted in 1816; it embodied some features of the Davy lamp and is considered by some to have antedated Davy's invention. His locomotive the Rocket bested the others in a contest in 1829 and was used on the Liverpool-Manchester Railway. He became engineer for several of the railroads that rapidly grew up and was consulted in the building of railroads and bridges in England and in other countries. His son Robert Stephenson, 1803–59, and a nephew, George Robert Stephenson, 1819–1905, were also railroad engineers, and both designed numerous bridges.

See L. T. Rolt, The Railway Revolution: George and Robert Stephenson (1962); R. M. Robbins, George and Robert Stephenson (1966).

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Stephenson, George

Stephenson, George (1781–1848). Son of a colliery workman, without schooling, George Stephenson became one of the most famous of all engineers. Beginning work at the age of 8, in early manhood he earned a reputation for managing the primitive steam-engines employed in collieries. In 1815 he invented a safety lamp for use in coal-mines, after risking his life repeatedly in earlier tests. He was responsible for the adoption of locomotives by the Stockton and Darlington railway and then the Liverpool and Manchester railway. His Rocket was triumphantly successful in the Rainhill trials of 1829. When he recommended the use of locomotives on these early railways, he knew that the available machines could not provide the necessary power, but he was confident that these technical problems would be overcome. This moral courage, and his innate ingenuity, paved the way for later railway contracts and aided Stephenson's rise to wealth and distinction.

Norman McCord

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Stephenson, George

Stephenson, George (1781–1848) English engineer, regarded as the father of the locomotive. Stephenson built his first locomotive, Blucher, in 1814. This locomotive, the first to have flanged wheels, ran on a tramway. His most famous locomotive, Rocket, was built in 1829. Reaching a top speed of 47km/h (29mph), it ran on the Liverpool to Manchester line, one of the many railway lines that he engineered.

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