Richard Trevithick

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The career of this erratic genius is an extraordinary story. The son of a Cornish mine captain, Trevithick single-handed totally changed the unwieldy steam engines of Newcome and Watt to efficient prime movers with many applications, inventing in the process a vast range of widely differing machines, from high-pressure engines to the world's first railway locomotive. His immense physical strength was legendary; he could write his name on a beam six feet from the floor with half a hundredweight hanging from his thumb. Yet his strength was nothing compared to his mental energy and initiative, involving schemes for mechanical refrigeration, tunnelling under the Thames, wreck salvage, agricultural machinery, land reclamation, and gun mountings. About the authorJames Hodge is a member of the Newcomen Society and was chairman of the Trevithick Society for many years.