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Thumbnail of Robert Livingston Stevens (source)
Robert Livingston Stevens
(18 Oct 1787 - 20 Apr 1856)

American engineer and ship designer , who invented the inverted-T railroad rail, gravel roadbed, and railroad spike to hold the rail to the wooden ties, all of which are now standard on the world's railways. He was the son of the inventor John Stevens.


Robert Livingston Stevens

Engineer (18 Oct 1787 - 20 Apr 1856)
born in Hoboken, N.J., son of John Stevens, the inventor.

from Harper's Encyclopedia of United States History (1910)

At the age of twenty years he built a steam-boat with concave water-lines, the first application of the wave-line to ship-building. He discovered the utility of employing anthracite coal in steam navigation in 1818, when coal was about to become an article of commerce. In 1822, he first substituted the skeleton wrought-iron for the heavy cast-iron walking-beam, and in 1824 first applied artificial blast to the boiler furnace. In 1827 he introduced the "hog-frame" for steamboats to prevent their bending in the centre.

Mr. Stevens began the first steam ferriage between New York and New Jersey shores in 1816, and was the inventor of the T rail for railroads. He was a projector of the Camden and Amboy Railroad, and its president for many years. In 1815, he invented an improved bomb for the naval service.

Engraving of Steven's Iron-Clad Floating Battery, broadside view
Steven's Iron-Clad Floating Battery

In 1842 he was commissioned by the United States Government to build an immense steam iron-clad floating battery for the defence of the harbor of New York. It was left unfinished at the time of his death, and was bequeathed to the state of New Jersey, and afterwards sold for its materials.

He died in Hoboken, N.J., April 20, 1856.

Printed as a single paragraph in original text; paragraph breaks added and headlines adjusted for web page. Text and engraving from Benson John Lossing and Woodrow Wilson (eds.), Harper's Encyclopedia of United States History from 458 A. D. to 1909 (1910), 421. (source)


See also:
  • 18 Oct - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Stevens's birth.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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