Biographical entry Fulton, Robert (1765 - 1815)

14 November 1765
Little Britain, Pennsylvania, United States of America
24 February 1815
New York, New York, United States of America
Author, Engineer and Inventor


Robert Fulton was a prolific and pioneering American engineer and inventor.

He invented and produced the earliest examples of the naval torpedo, on commission to design armaments for the British Royal Navy in 1804.

He also produced the first successful submarine in 1800, the Nautilus, which had been commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 1807 he created The North River Steamboat, the world's first commercially successful steamboat.



c. 1788
Life event - Emigrated to Europe
1793 - 1797
Career event - Designed the submarine Nautilus
Career event - Commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to construct the submarine Nautilus
Career position - Commissioned by British Prime Minister William Pitt to design armaments, including torpedoes.
Life event - Returned to America
Career event - The North River Steamboat began service between Albany and New York City, NY.
Life event - Died of pneomonia after exposure to icy waters of the Hudson River.

Published resources


  • Sleeman, Charles William, Torpedoes and Torpedo Warfare: The Containing a Complete and Concise Account of the Rise and Progress of Submarine Warfare, Griffin & Co., Portsmouth, 1880. Details

Book Sections

  • Brown, D. K., 'Steam torpedo boats of the Royal Navy', in Jordan, J. (ed.), Warship 2005, Conway Maritime Press Ltd., London, 2005, pp. 73-96. Details

Journal Articles

  • 'Torpedo War', Engineering, vol. 9, 14 January 1870, pp. 25-26. Details
  • 'The Autobiography of a Whitehead Torpedo', Engineering, vol. 39, February-May 1885, pp. 127-128. Details

Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Robert Fulton', in Grace's Guide - British Industrial History, 2012,

Prepared by: Rebecca Rigby