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ROBERT STEPHENSON (1803-1859)

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Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 889 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ROBERT STEPHENSON (1803-1859), English engineer, only son of George Stephenson (q.v.), was borr at Willington Quay on the 16th of October 1803. His father, remembering his own early difficulties, bestowed special care on his son's education, and sent him in his twelfth year to Mr Bruce's school in Percy Street, Newcastle, where he remained about four years. In 1819 he was apprenticed to Nicholas Wood, a coal-viewer at Killingworth, after which he was sent in 1822 to attend the science classes at the university of Edinburgh. On his return he assisted his father in surveying the Stockton & Darlington and Liverpool & Manchester lines, but in 1824 he accepted an engagement in South America to take charge of the engineering operations of the Colombian Mining Association of London. On account of the difficulties of the situation he resigned it in 1827, and returned to England via New York in company with Richard Trevithick, whom he had met in a penniless condition at Cartagena. He then undertook the management of his father's factory in Newcastle, and greatly aided him in the improvement of the locomotives. His practice was not confined to his own country, but extended also to Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Piedmont and Egypt. In this connexion his most remarkable achievements were his railway bridges, especially those of the tubular girder type. Among his more notable examples are the Royal Border bridge at Berwick-on-Tweed, the High Level bridge at Newcastle-on-Tyne, the Britannia tubular bridge over the Menai Straits, the Conway tubular bridge, and the Victoria tubular bridge over the St Lawrence at Montreal. In 1847 he entered the House of Commons as member for Whitby, retaining the seat till the end of his life. In 18J5 he was elected president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, of which he became a member in 1830. He died in London on the 12th of October 1859, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. See The Story of the Life of George Stephenson, including a Memoir of his Son Robert Stephenson, by Samuel Smiles (1857 ; new ed., 1873) ; Jeaffreson, Life of Robert Stephenson (2 vols., 1864); and Smiles's Lives of British Engineers, vol. iii.
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