Richard Trevithick

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Trevithick, Richard

(trĕv`ĭthĭk), 1771–1833, British engineer and inventor, b. Cornwall. He is known as the father of locomotive power because of his invention (1800) of the high-pressure steam engine. He built a steam carriage that on Christmas Eve, 1801, in London, carried the first passengers transported by steam power. In 1804 a steam locomotive he constructed was used in Wales on a railway, the first vehicle to be so operated. Trevithick also developed steam engines for use in mines and invented a steam threshing machine.
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Trevithick, Richard


Born Apr. 13, 1771, in Illogan, Cornwall; died Apr. 22, 1833, in Dartford, Kent. English inventor.

Trevithick received his secondary education at Camborne School. Through his own efforts he acquired sufficient knowledge in steam engineering to become an engineer in various companies. He pioneered the development and use of stationary engines that operate at high pressures; he received a patent for a high-pressure steam engine in 1800 and introduced the cylindrical boiler (the Cornish boiler) in 1815.

Trevithick built his first models of steam carriages in 1797. In 1801 he undertook the construction of full-scale steam carriages, the last of which underwent successful testing in Cornwall and London in 1802 and 1803. In 1803 and 1804, with the assistance of J. Steele, Trevithick built the first steam locomotive in history for the Merthyr Tydfil tramway in South Wales; the locomotive proved to be too heavy for the cast-iron rails and could not be used. The second steam locomotive built by Trevithick and Steele also did not find practical application. Not until 1808 did Trevithick design and build an improved steam locomotive that could reach speeds of up to 30 km/hour; this locomotive was demonstrated in a suburb of London.

Lacking financial support, Trevithick went bankrupt in 1811. He left England for South America in 1816. He returned to England in 1827 and subsequently died in poverty.


Tvortsy mashin. Moscow, 1937.
Virginskii, V. S. Dzh. Stefenson. Moscow, 1964.
Dickinson, H. W., and A. Titley. Richard Trevithick. Cambridge, 1934.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
1771: Richard Trevithick. British engineer who built the first high-pressure steam engine.
Richard Trevithick (1771-1833) was an important figure in the early development of steam technology.
Britain's industrial revolution was based on the work of uneducated illiterates like George Stephenson, Thomas Newcomen and Richard Trevithick. They were employed in embryonic industries, such as coal or tin mining, and used their natural ability to solve problems.
Scientifically it is important because in 1801 Richard Trevithick took the first steam-powered vehicle Puffing Billy on only its second run.
On This Day: 1804: British engineer Richard Trevithick demonstrated the first steam engine to run on rails.
The story goes that rival ironmaster Richard Crawshay wagered 500 guineas with Richard Trevithick's boss Homfray that he couldn't make an engine to pull a load along the rail line, only for Trevithick's 'Penydarren' locomotive to prove him wrong.
A pounds 2 COIN commemorating the 200thanniversary of the first locomotive steam engine built by Richard Trevithick is to be issued by the Royal Mint.
A pounds 130,000 replica of Richard Trevithick's "puffing devil" was put through its paces from Camborne to Tehidy, Cornwall.
They're massing for the 100th anniversary of local engineer Richard Trevithick's pioneering of the motor car with his steam-driven 'passenger carriage'.
Richard Trevithick had failed in his attempt to make a commercial success of the steam locomotive (see 1804).
Designed by the Cornish engineer, Richard Trevithick, the event was prompted by a bet between two ironmasters, and the engine hauled wagons holding a load of iron and men the ten miles or so between Penydarren and Abercynon - the world's first railway journey.