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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.
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