Richard Trevithick, Cornish engineer and inventor, c 1790.
© NRM / Pictorial Collection / Science & Society Picture Library
This copy of a contemporary miniature on ivory shows Richard Trevithick (1771-1833) as a young man. Born into a tin mining family from Cornwall, Trevithick was the first to use high-presure steam to drive an engine. Until 1800, the weaknes of existing boilers had restricted all engines to being atmospheric ones. Trevithick, set about making a cylindrical boiler which could withstand steam at higher presures. This new engine was well suited to driving vehicles. In 1804 Trevithick was responsible for the first succesful railway locomotive. He also designed steam road carriages and a large number of stationary steam engines.