George Stephenson

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George Stephenson
BirthplaceWylam, Northumberland, England

Stephenson, George,

1781–1848, British engineer, noted as a locomotive builder. He learned to read and write in night school at the age of 18, while working in a colliery. He constructed (1814) a traveling engine, or locomotive, to haul coal from mines and in 1815 built the first locomotive to use the steam blast. He also devised (c.1815) a miner's safety lamp at about the same time as did Sir Humphry Davy, whose lamp was adopted in 1816; it embodied some features of the Davy lamp and is considered by some to have antedated Davy's invention. His locomotive the Rocket bested the others in a contest in 1829 and was used on the Liverpool-Manchester Railway. He became engineer for several of the railroads that rapidly grew up and was consulted in the building of railroads and bridges in England and in other countries. His son Robert Stephenson, 1803–59, and a nephew, George Robert Stephenson, 1819–1905, were also railroad engineers, and both designed numerous bridges.


See L. T. Rolt, The Railway Revolution: George and Robert Stephenson (1962); R. M. Robbins, George and Robert Stephenson (1966).

Stephenson, George


Born June 9,1781, in Wylam, Northumberland; died Aug. 12,1848, at Tapton House, near Chesterfield. British designer and inventor who laid the basis for steam locomotion.

The son of a miner, Stephenson went to work at the age of eight. He learned to read and write at the age of 18 and through his persistence in self-education learned to be a steam-engine mechanic (around 1800). In 1812 he became chief mechanic at the Killingworth colliery (Northumberland), and in 1815 he invented a new type of safety lamp for miners.

In 1814, Stephenson turned his attention to the construction of steam locomotives. With the aid of J. Steele, a former assistant of R. Trevithick, he built his first locomotive, the Blücher, for a mining railway. In 1815 and 1816 he built two more locomotives of improved design. In 1818, working with N. Wood, Stephenson carried out the first scientific studies on the relationship between the railway’s resistance, on the one hand, and the railway gradient and load, on the other. In 1823 he founded in Newcastle the world’s first plant for the production of steam locomotives. It was here that the locomotive Locomotion (1825) was produced; the engine was intended for the Darlington-Stockton railroad, which itself had been built under Stephenson’s supervision. The plant also turned out the Rocket (1829), built for the railroad between Manchester and Liverpool (1826–30). During construction of the Manchester-Liverpool line, Stephenson became the first to solve certain complex problems of railroad engineering. His solutions involved the use of engineering structures (bridges, viaducts) and of iron rails on rock beds, permitting locomotives of the Rocket type to attain speeds of up to 50 km/hr. The track gauge used by Stephenson (1,435 mm) became the most common for the railroads of Western Europe. In 1836, Stephenson organized a planning office in London that became a scientific and technological center for railroad construction. The designs of Stephenson and his son, Robert, were used to build locomotives that were operated not only in Great Britain but in other countries as well. Stephenson also solved a number of other technical problems related to transportation and industry, and he organized a school for mechanics.


Zabarinskii, P. P. Stefenson. Moscow, 1937.
Virginskii, V. S. Dzhordzh Stefenson, 1781–1848. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Smiles, S. The Story of the Life of George Stephenson. London, 1871.
Rowland, J. George Stephenson. London, 1954.


References in periodicals archive ?
HMRC said the closures would be phased to reduce the number of redundancies, but hoped to close the Russell Street base by 2018/19; the Grange Road office by 2019/20 and the George Stephenson House operation by 2020-21.
It is one of the few letters written by George Stephenson, who only started to learn to write, aged 18.
The birthplace of George Stephenson, who designed Rocket with son Robert, remains closed to the public after the National Trust shut its doors last year.
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These included George Stephenson Community High School in Killingworth and Wallsend Western Community Primary School.
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Last year, Malcolm spoke about George Stephenson and this visit will provide an account of his son's achievements.
Finalists George Stephenson High School in the > Learning Through Internet and ICT Award, give their presentation George Stephenson High School Last year George Stephenson High School in Newcastle Last year George Stephenson High School in Newcastle was lucky enough to work with Professor Sugata Mitra was lucky enough to work with Professor Sugata Mitra when he won the TED prize in 2013.
Merseyside artists are being asked to design pieces by drawing on inspiration from the region's significant sons and daughters, like George Stephenson who invented the Rocket steam locomotive.
A NEW series of stamps celebrating the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution - including railway pioneer George Stephenson - was unveiled by the Royal Mail today.