Sir Charles Algernon Parsons, Irish engineer, 1922.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Oil painting by Sir William Orpen. Charles Parsons (1854-1931) was the youngest son of William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rose. He studied at Dublin and Cambridge Universities, and in 1884 developed the first high speed steam turbine. Then in 1897 he built the first turbine-driven steamship, the 'Turbinia', which, with its top speed of 35 knots, caused a sensation at Queen Victoria's (1819-1901) Diamond Jubilee Naval Review the following year. He also designed searchlights, telescopes and developed the high-speed electric generator. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1898, knighted in 1911, and in 1927 became the first engineer to be admitted to the Order of Merit.