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British Industrial History

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George Francis Gabriel Desvignes

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George Francis Gabriel Desvignes (c1850-1935)


1935 Obituary [1]

IN the development of high-speed steam launches and torpedo boats the name's of two men are world famous. Thornycroft and Yarrow; to these may be added Hereshoff, of the United States, and Normand, of France. The name of Desvignes is not so widely recognised in this connection, yet the extent and merit of his work claim that he should be included amongst these pioneers, and placed upon record. He was a remarkable man, only son of George Desvignes, of Hampton Wick, Middlesex, member of a family which contained several men gifted with ability in mechanics and architecture.

His uncle, according to him, made the first electric locomotive on record and worked it on a railway in his garden at Lewisham ; the electricity was generated by a primary battery. This locomotive would haul two trucks carrying four people.

He studied mechanical engineering at King's College, London, and whilst there made a lathe, a model horizontal steam engine of about t horse-power, and a model of a steam donkey pump to his own design. This was during the years 1864-1865, when he was no more than sixteen years of age. Yet at that early age he designed and started to build two river steam launches in a meadow at the back of his father's house at Tulse Hill, South London. With assistance from the gardener and some mechanics he completed these boats, 1866-1867, and duly launched them on the river Thames. The first, named "Calypso," was fitted with a vertical water-tube boiler, which he had patented, working at 180 lb. per square inch. The boats had a cabin over the fore part. Apparently, at that time, only three other steam launches were on the Thames.

From about the year 1878 to 1900 he built a number of fast Vessels, one in 1881 for the Khedive of Egypt, speed 19 m.p.h.; a torpedo boat for the Turkish Government, speed 23·7 knots; the "Isis Hathor," in 1884, speed 17 m.p.h.; and "Amaryllis, " in 1871, speed 26 statute miles per hour....[more]



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