John Ericsson

John Ericsson

State St & Battery Pl, New York, NY 10004, USA

This 1903 statue by Jonathan Scott Hartley (1845–1912) depicts the esteemed Swedish-American engineer and inventor John Ericsson (1803–1889), who helped to revolutionize military-maritime technology with his ironclad warship, the Monitor.

Ericsson was born in Langbanshyttan, Sweden to a mining proprietor father, observing and developing an interest in the operations of mining machinery as a child. Ericsson displayed an early talent for engineering, building a miniature sawmill before he was 11. His precocious ability caught the attention of the well-known engineer Count Platen, who appointed Ericsson a cadet in the corps of mechanical engineers at age 12. By age 14, he was placed in charge of 600 soldier operatives, while he himself made mechanical drawings for the canal project.

In 1836 Ericsson invented and patented the screw propeller, a device that vastly improved steam vessel travel. Approached by the United States Navy, Ericsson came to the United States in 1839, and designed a frigate, the Princeton, which united many of his technological inventions, including state-of-the art screw propellers, smokestacks, ventilators, optical instruments, and gun carriages. However, a demonstration in 1844, in which a large gun accidentally exploded, killing the United States secretaries of the Navy and State, tarnished Ericsson’s reputation. Despite this setback, his engineering career revived in 1861 with the design and construction of the Monitor iron-clad war ship.

Written by: Marc Acito
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