John Robertson, Scottish engineer, with the 'Comet' engine, c 1862.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Robertson standing in front of the 'Comet' engine. John Robertson (1782-1868) was commisioned in 1811 by the Hotelier Henry Bell to build a 13 m (43-ft) boat with a high-presure steam-engine, designed to bring visitors from Glasgow to his Helensburgh hotel. Though lengthened and fitted with a larger cylinder for the service between Glasgow and Fort William, the 'Comet' was underpowered for coastal work and was wrecked in 1820. After serious fire damage, the engine was restored by John Napier & Co in 1855.