Biographical entry Wilson, Robert (1803 - 1882)
Matlock Bridge, Derbyshire, United Kingdom
Robert Wilson was a self-taught Scottish engineer who built and experimented on one of the first practical contra-rotating screw propellers.
He first prototyped the design in 1832, when he was awarded a silver medal and a grant by the Royal Scottish Society of Arts, on condition that he produce a model of his concept.
Though it was presented to the Admiralty in 1836 the design was not fully acknowledged and implemented until 1880 when the Admiralty presented him with £500 in exchange for use of the design in the production of the Royal Arsenal's Whitehead torpedoes.
He was also a prolific designer of other machine parts, taking out twenty-four patents for valves, pistons, propellers, and hydraulic and other machinery between 1842 and 1880.
Wilson was embittered about the lack of recognition he received for his invention. He published a pamphlet titled The Screw Propeller: who Invented it? in 1860 and again in 1880 to rebuke the claims of others that his idea was not original.
- Career event - Awarded a sum of £10 by the Highland Society to produce a model of his propeller design
- Career event - Model of his propeller design submitted to the Admiralty for trial
- Award - Awarded a silver medal by the Royal Scottish Society of Arts
- 1838 - 1856
- Career position - Manager of James Nasmyth's Bridgwater foundry at Patricroft
- 1856 - ?
- Career position - Managing partner of the firm Nasmyth, Wilson & Co.
- Award - Member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
- Career event - Payed £500 by the War Department for the use of the double-action screw-propeller
- Wilson, R, The Screw Propeller - Who Invented It, 2 edn, Thomas Murray and Son, Glasgow, 1888. Details
- Sutton, C. W. and Lambert, A., 'Wilson, Robert (1803-1882)', in Matthew, H. C. G. and Harrison, B. (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 59, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004, p. 629. Details
- 'The Whitehead fish torpedo', Engineering, vol. 29, 7 May 1880, p. 360. Details
- 'Robert Wilson', The Engineer, vol. 54, 4 August 1882, p. 89. Details
- Wilson, R., Improvements in Screw Propulsion and in Machinery or Apparatus for actuating the same, Patent No 114, 15 January 1861. Details
- Wilson, R., Certain improvements in screw propellers and their application to ships, boats and other vessels, and also in machinery or apparatus for actuating the same, Patent No 2584, 23 June 1876. Details
Sources used to compile this entry: 'The Late Mr Robert Wilson, FRSE', Manchester Guardian, 1 August 1882, p. 5; 'Obituary, Mr Robert Wilson', The Times, 13 August 1882, p. 7; Sutton, C. W. and Lambert, A., 'Wilson, Robert (1803-1882)', in Matthew, H. C. G. and Harrison, B. (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 59, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004, p. 629.
Prepared by: Rebecca Rigby