William Symington, Scottish civil engineer, c 1830.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving of William Symington (1764-1831), Scottish pioneer of steam navigation. In 1784, at the age of 20, Symington designed the first model steam road carriage. He was then commisioned to make a series of boat engines by the Scottish entrepreneur Patrick Miller. In 1788 he developed the first steam-powered marine engine, which was used to power the world's first paddle steamer. Having heard of Symington's experiments, Lord Dundas (1741-1820), proprieter and governor of the Forth and Clyde canal, approached him to build a steamboat to pull barges along his canal. In 1803 Symington succesfully demonstrated the canal tug 'Charlotte Dundas', named after Dundas' daughter. It pulled two barges 31km along the Forth and Clyde canal in six hours.