George Stephenson (Summary)

George Stephenson (1781-1848) was a British mechanic, inventor, and the initiator of the Second Industrial Revolution. He was born in Wylam, Northumberland, England, in 1781. His parents were humble, illiterate, but honest hard-working people. He father was a coal miner. Thus, George began to work when he was eight years old. However, despite the adverse circumstance he was born into, he undertook the task of educating himself, learning to read at 18. When he turned 20 he had become a steam engine mechanic.

In 1813, he began to build a steam engine locomotive, which took him ten months to finish. He named it “Blucher”, which hauled 25 tons of coal on the first day it was set to work on a four-mile long, sloping stretch of railway track. Between 1824 and 1825, he designed and built the first steam locomotive for use in a public railway system for passenger transportation, which successfully ran between Stockton and Darlington. In 1830, he inaugurated the second public railway system that plied between Liverpool and Manchester, using a new type of steam locomotive, which was safer, faster, and more efficient. It was called the “Rocket”.

Six years later, George Stephenson and his son Robert, who was educated in a private school, would establish a mechanical design center for railway construction in London. Stephenson’s steam locomotives and the 1.435m-wide track gauge would become the standard in the railway industry for many years. George Stephenson died of pleurisy in 1848, in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. He got married three times, but had only two children: Robert and Fanny.

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