Sir Charles Algernon Parsons, Irish engineer, 1922.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Detail from the central part of a portrait painting by Sir William Orpen. Charles Parsons (1854-1931) was the youngest son of William Parsons, Third Earl of Rose (1800-1867). 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.