No matter what kind of vessel you find yourself watching, it is hard to believe that such large, graceful vehicles glide across the water with just the aid of an underwater propeller! It may lead you to ask the question: who invented the propeller for ships?
The ship propeller is thought to be based on a design by Swedish-born John Ericsson, who introduced the propeller to ships for the U.S. Navy in the year 1839. For this John Ericsson was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. However, Joseph Ressel, Francis Pettit Smith, and Frederic Sauvage also contributed to the invention of the propeller as it is today.
In this article, we’ll go over, in detail, the answer to the question: who invented the propeller for ships? We’ll also cover some of the history of the modern ship propeller and answer a few frequently asked questions related to the topic!
Who Invented the Propeller For Ships?
Nowadays, a performance boat propeller is almost the universal way to get around in a boat! However, before this marvel of machinery became the mainstream, a type of propeller known as the “screw propeller” was the standard. This is popularly credited to John Ericsson, as mentioned above, but a few models acted as stepping stones beforehand.
The list of inventors who contributed to John Ericsson’s eventual propeller for ships are listed below:
- Joseph Ressel
- Francis Pettit Smith
- Frederic Sauvage and John Ericcson
Let’s take a closer look at each of these remarkable engineers and see how they led to what we know as the modern propeller for ships today!
This model was thought up by an inventor named Joseph Ressel who was of Czech-Austrian origins. Joseph Ressel invented a bronze propeller blade, crafted in bronze, which attached to a cone-shaped base. This worked on smaller vessels until 1829, when it was attached to larger steam-powered vessels, as well.
One of Ressel’s most famous designs, used on the Civetta, helped the ship to reach a six-knot speed!
Francis Pettit Smith
An English inventor named Francis Pettit Smith not only invented the next improvement on the propeller for boats, but probably also invented the need for a repair on propellers.
You see, while Ressel’s propeller did effectively propel a boat forward in the water, his design was improved in 1835 when Francis Pettit Smith’s propeller blade broke.
Francis re-attached the damaged blade, which turned out to warp the shape of the screw-propeller in such a way that the boat actually gained a higher speed.
Francis Pettit Smith went on to participate in the origins of the Propeller Steamship Company. Another of his notable accomplishments was to create the first screw propeller steamship that functioned, the SS Archimedes.
Frederic Sauvage and John Ericcson
The patents that were submitted for a screw propeller design after this were actually simultaneously, though separately, designed by both Frederic Sauvage and John Ericcson in 1839.
Frederic Sauvage was a builder of boats from France, while John Ericcson, an engineer and inventor, was from America.
Frederic Sauvage displayed during a demonstration in the commune of Honfleur, France, that his propeller was far more effective for maneuvering a vessel through the water than the common practice of using paddles. Though Sauvage was capable of building steamer boats, similarly to John Ericcson, he was not able to patent his propeller to the French Navy.
On the contrary, John Ericcson had little to no trouble interesting the United States Navy in his propellers and his services, and went on to build the renowned warship, the SS. Moniter. It was the first of it’s kind, propeller-powered and clad in iron.
In conclusion, although the modern propeller is no longer of the same model, it would not have come into existence without the invention of the screw propeller.
Though the screw propeller’s invention is credited to John Ericcson, Frederic Sauvage submitted a similar device for patenting in 1839, and both Joseph Ressel and Francis Pettit Smith contributed to the evolution of the propeller, as well!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions related to the question: who invented the propeller for ships?
When Were Ship Propellers Invented?
The first known instance of a ship propeller in use was in 1827, and was a model created by Josef Ressel. The nineteenth century was booming with inventions like these, including the telegraph, telephone, typewriter. Before the propeller, vessels moved during this time using steam power and paddles.
What Was The First Propeller-Driven Ship?
The world’s first steamship to be driven successfully by a screw-propeller was a steamship belonging to Great Britain. This steamship was called the SS Archimedes, and it became a model for steamships to be based on in the future.
How Many Propellers Does a Ship Have?
Ships can be outfitted with anywhere from one to three propellers. The way engineers decide upon this factors in things like the necessary speed the vessel must have and how it will maneuver.