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British Industrial History

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Francis Humphrys

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Francis Humphrys (1806-1841)

Born Bristol

Edward Humphrys was apprenticed as an engineer to his elder brother Francis, in Liverpool.

c.1830s Marine engineer of the London and Dublin Steam Navigation Co[1]

Designed new engines for the Royal Tar with assistance of his brother Edward[2]

1835 Francis Humphrys patented a form of trunk engine which was tried in the Dartford but failed (a similar engine may have been patented by Broderip some years before)[3]

1837 Employed by John Hall and Sons of Dartford, to design the engines for the paddle steamer Wilberforce, an early demonstration of the effectiveness of surface condensers[4]

1839 Tendered to supply the engines for the SS Great Britain assuming they would be built by Hall's; Brunel suspected that Humphry's costings were wrong (he had not consulted Hall's before submitting his tender) and his health was suspect; the novelty of the trunk engine design added to Brunel's disquiet. Nevertheless the company accepted his tender. Hall's declined to tool-up for a one-off engine so the Great Western Steamship Co set up its own engine works. Humphrys encountered problems in making the paddle shaft from wrought iron and instead sought advice from James Nasmyth, of Nasmyth, Gaskell and Co, who devised a steam hammer in order to make the shaft from cast iron[5]

1841 Died of disease similar to that which had killed his second son; left a widow and 4 young children. Had recently been appointed engineer to the Royal Mail Steamship Co and had resigned his position as engineer to the works of the Great Western Steamship Co. Several famous engineers, including Nasmyth, Brunel , Guppy, Claxton, etc contributed to a fund for the maintenance of his family[6]


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Oct 19, 1858
  2. The Engineer 1875/01/29
  3. The Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal, Volume 3, 1840 [1]
  4. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1862 [2]
  5. Brunel's Three Ships by Dumpleton, Muriel Miller [3]
  6. Bristol Mirror, 16 January 1841