[Sir] Charles Algernon Parsons

Life
1854-1931; engineer; younger son of third earl of Rosse; ed. TCD and St John’s Cambridge; 11th wrangler, 1877; constructed first turbo-dynamo, 1884; founded firm, 1889; raised voltage generated in power stations to ii,000 in 1905, and 36,000 in 1928; founded firm manufacturing marine steam turbines; experimental vessel Turbinia, naval review, 1897; turbine adopted by Cunard and Admiralty, 1905; besides modifying turbines for slower craft, interest in optics produced searchlight reflectors, different kinds of optical glass, and 36 and 74 inch reflecting telescopes; FRS, 189; President of British Association, 1919; KCB, 1911; OM, 1927; considered most original engineer since Watt. ODNB DIB

Commentary
J. C. Kelly-Rogers, ‘Aviation in Ireland - 1784 to 1922’, Éire-Ireland, 6, 2 (Summer 1971), pp.3-17 reports that ‘[I]n 1896, the publication Nature reported that the Hon. C. A. Parsons had built a steam-powered model aeroplane weighing only 31/2 [three and a half] pounds and that it had flown a distance of 100 yards, rising to a height of 20 feet. Parsons, younger son of the third Earl of Rosse, was the inventor of the steam turbine; the factory bearing his name still makes them in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to this day. A large photograph in Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, shows the model with fair clarity and efforts are being made to discover more about it. From its appearance engineers are of the opinion that it may have been a control line model and that it had VTOL capability (vertical take-off and landing).’ (p.6)

Notes
Portrait, Sir Charles Alg. Parsons [6th son of 3rd earl], eng., by A. Jamieson, lent Earl of Ross[e]; see Anne Crookshank, Irish Portraits Exhibition (Ulster Mus. 1965).

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