Marine Link
Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Charles A. Parsons

THE following is a sketch of the career of the Hon. Sir Charles A. Parsons, K.C.B.,F.R.S., D.Sc., etc., the brilliant inventor and engineer, and chairman of the Parsons Ma- r -r Steam Turbine Company, Limited, Turbinia . works. Wallsend-on-Tyne, and C. A. Parsons and Company, Limited, Heaton Works, Newcastle-on-

The question of the importance of hereditary race on after life has never been more debatable than at the present time, and the results recent psychological research have given very little decisive evidence for or against. There -1- be little doubt, however, that there are many examples which seem to give a prior reason for assuming that definite qualities of a more or less extinctive nature are handed down from father t son. Such an example is to be found in our present subject, who has been very largely endowed with his father's scientific aptitude. Sir Charles Parsons is the fourth son of William fourth Earl of Rosse, who was president c f the Royal Society, and effected many improvements in the construction of the telescope. Sir Charles was born at 10, Connaught Place, London. On the 13th June, 1854, and received his early education under private tuition at his father's seat in Ireland. Earl Rosse had a rooted objection to public school education, and while being taught by private tutors his son enjoyed at the same time the advantage of working in well- equipped workshops, where the Earl had constructed his telescopes. It was from his father, "ho was a skilled engineer as well as a scientist and astronomer, that Sir Charles learned the first principles of mechanical construction and en-gineering. Thus from his earliest days he lived .71 a scientific atmosphere. After taking a course at Dublin University he entered St. John's College, Cambridge, where he took the M.A. degree with high mathematical honors, being eleventh wrangler of 1876.

Leaving the University, Sir Charles entered the Elswick Works of Sir W. G. Armstrong (afterward Lord Armstrong) as a premium apprentice, and served three years. Here he learned the methods of mechanical research and construction, which have made these works so famous, and which have had so much influence on his life-work. He also showed early an unmistakable evidence of inventive genius, inventing various valve motions as well as a four-cylinder rotary engine with revolving cylinders. For a few years after leaving Elswick he was associated with Messrs. Kitson of Leeds, but returned to the Tyne in 1883, and became a partner of the firm of Clarke, Chapman and Co., Gateshead-on-Tyne.

In the following year Sir Charles began his experiments which led to the development of the steam turbine, with which his name will ever be associated. When he commenced to work on this epoch-making invention it seemed to him that, in spite of the fact that many had previously failed in their endeavor to make it a success, it was right in principle, and that after a thorough experimental investigation it should be possible to realize success. The initial experiments gave encouraging results, but, as at first constructed, these engines were somewhat wasteful of steam. Experience in their manufacture, however, soon led to the elimination of this defect, and an efficient motor, showing economy of steam consumption, was eventually produced, the first steam turbine being of about 10 horsepower and running at 18,000 revolutions per minute. Large works were established at Heaton for the manufacture of turbines, dynamos, searchlight mirrors, etc., under the title of C. A. Parsons & Company, and in 1893 Sir Charles turned his attention to the development of the marine turbine. In 1894 a pioneer syndicate, the Marine Steam Turbine Company, Limited, was founded, and the experimental stage was successfully completed in 1897, the famous "Turbinia" being completed in that year. This vessel was 100 feet long with 9 feet beam and 44 tons displacement, and by attaining a speed of 34 knots proved to be the fastest ship in the world. She created widespread interest among those who witnessed her performance at the naval review at Spithead in 1897. In this year the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Co., Ltd., was formed, and works were laid down at Wallsend-on-Tyne.

The efficiency and value of the turbine as a means of ship propulsion was now established, and the late Sir William White was among the first to realize its potential possibilities for naval purposes. It was while he was Director of Naval Construction at the Admiralty that the order for the first turbine-driven destroyers, the "Viper" and "Cobra," was placed, and the first turbine- driven cruiser, the "Amethyst," was constructed. These destroyers attained the excellent speed of 36 knots on trial, but it was largely due to the success of the "Amethyst" that the general introduction of the turbine in the British Navy took place.

Sir Archibald Denny, the distinguished Clyde shipbuilder, was one of the first to recognize the advantage of the turbine for cross-channel steamers, and he induced his firm to join Captain John Williamson and Sir Charles Parsons Company, the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Co., Ltd., in building and running the first mercantile turbine steamers on the Clyde. The influence of the turbine on the mercantile marine has been of enormous and ever-increasing importance, and without its aid the excellent performance of the large ocean liners of to-day would have been impossible. In this connection it should be stated that Sir Charles clearly foresaw the advantages of the combination of the turbine with reciprocating engines in certain instances, and another development which has taken place and has now superseded the direct-driven turbine for ship propulsion is that of mechanical gearing, which has been introduced between the turbines and the propeller and which has widened the field for the application of the marine turbine to include all classes of vessels, including cargo vessels. His labors in connection with the perfecting of this system of gearing are too fresh in the minds of readers for us to enlarge upon here.

Such is the brief history of the phenomenal success of the turbine, and the chief credit must be given to Sir Charles Parsons, whose unique gifts, coupled with untiring effort and persistent application, have carried him to the forefront of the engineers of his day. Not only has the Parsons turbine been of inestimable service in marine work, but up to the present time land turbines of several million horsepower have been manufactured at Heaton and elsewhere for electric and other machinery. The brilliant gifts of Sir Charles have been recognized throughout the world, and many high honors has been conferred upon him. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and has been a recipient of the her. Decree of D.Sc. Of the Durham, Dublin and Oxford Universities, and the LL.D. of Glasgow University. . H appointed a Companion of the Bath in 1904. In 1911 his Majesty King George conferred upon him the honor of Knight Commander of the Bath as a further recognition of the value of his work to the industrial and scientific world

Sir Charles has always taken ar e tterest in the work of the various technical societies- and is a past president of the Institute I 'ar:ne Engineers, vice-president of the Institution c Mara! Architects and past president of the North--. Coast Institution of Engineers and Skpbnilders- During the joint summer meeting of Naval Architects, Institution or Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotlar.u East Coast Institution of Engineers builders held in Newcastle-on-Tyne in tithe honorary freedom of that irerreu upon him. Sir Charles has been abie. To his other numerous activities, to taor a persor interest in the theoretical and. Of students, and has always been reau t;give every credit to those who have been assoo atsu with him in his brilliant lifework

Sir Charles, by the introduction of the turbine in the completed form in which he has given it to the world, has conferred great benefits upon the ocean traveler. Those of us who "went down t the sea in ships" in the earlier and cruder days I steam navigation and have since experienced the speed and comfort of traveling in a turbine-propelled ship have cause to rejoice in an invention which has made travel not only speedier but steadier. So that whether we go sailing on a trans- Atlantic voyage or coastwise, we can now; it much more because of this invention. No country has a monopoly of the benefits brought by the turbine, of which no country is more appreciative than the United States.

Maritime Reporter Magazine Cover Dec 2017 - The Great Ships of 2017

Maritime Reporter and Engineering News’ first edition was published in New York City in 1883 and became our flagship publication in 1939. It is the world’s largest audited circulation magazine serving the global maritime industry, delivering more insightful editorial and news to more industry decision makers than any other source.

Maritime Reporter E-News subscription

Maritime Reporter E-News is the subsea industry's largest circulation and most authoritative ENews Service, delivered to your Email three times per week

Subscribe for Maritime Reporter E-News