Robert Fulton – American Genius 1765


Robert Fulton, an “American genius”, was in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1765, the son of an Irish emigrant.

Robert Fulton was an American genius. Not only did he improve steamship designs he designed a submarine for Napoleon.


Although Fulton was not a good student, he was interested in mechanics, and in fact one of his teachers  said “his head was so full of original ideas that there was no room for the  storage of the contents of dusty books.”

As early as 1793, Fulton had the idea to use an engine in the propulsion of steam vessels, and applied for a patent application for “improvements in Steamboats.”  The application was granted February 11, 1809.

During the War of 1812, Fulton designed a steam vessel-of-war, which was capable of carrying a heavy battery, and of steaming  four miles an hour. The estimated cost was  $320,000, and was authorized by Congress in March of 1814.  The vessel was launched October 29 of the same year.

Although Fulton is best known for the steamboat, he was commissioned by Napoleon to design the first practical submarine.    Testing of Fulton’s Nautilus, was carried out in 1800, in France, when Fulton descended to a depth of 25 feet.

Fulton died on February 23, 1815, from a respiratory illness which began as a cold.

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