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James Renwick

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James Renwick (1790–1863), was an English-American scientist and engineer.

Born in Liverpool, England, 30 May 1790. Died in New York city, 12 Jan., 1863.

From 'The English Influence On American Railroads'[1] :-

'James Renwick graduated with highest honours in his Columbia class of 1801 [actually 1807]. After working for the United States as a topographical engineer, he became an instructor at Columbia College in 1812. In 1820, he began his career as Professor of Natural Sciences and Experimental Chemistry at Columbia College, a position he held until 1853.

'Professor Renwick was employed by the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company as a consultant in November, 1827, on their railway. In 1828, he edited and made additions to Lardner's Popular Lectures on the Steam Engine. Renwick's own Treatise on Steam Engines was issued in 1830 and 1838. In 1831 he carried out a comparison of costs between the Mohawk and Hudson, New York State's pioneer railway, and a canal.'

James Renwick conceived and designed the inclined planes for raising boats on the Morris Canal in New Jersey, and powered them with 30-foot diameter overshot water wheels. (Note: The water wheels were replaced with reaction turbines in 1850).[2]

See also Wikipedia entry.

The following information, from Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol 5, 1900[3] will be lodged here, pro tem.

His son, Henry Brevoort Renwick, engineer, b. in New York city, 4 Sept. 1817 and died there, 27 Jan. 1895. He graduated at Columbia, and became assistant engineer in the U. S. service. He served as assistant astronomer of the U. S. boundary commission, and in 1848 was appointed examiner in the U. S. patent-office. In 1853 he became U. S. inspector of steamboat engines for the district of New York, and since his retirement from that office he had devoted himself to consultation practice in the specialty of mechanical engineering, in which branch he was accepted as one of the best authorities in the United States. Mr. Renwick was associated with his father in the preparation of " Life of John Jay " (New York, 1841).

Another son, James Renwick Jr., architect, b. in New York city. 3 Nov., 1818 ; d. there, 23 June, 1895. He graduated at Columbia in 1836, and inherited a fondness for architecture from his father. At first he served as an engineer in the Erie railway, and then he became an assistant engineer on the Croton aqueduct, in which capacity he superintended the construction of the distributing reservoir on Fifth avenue between Fortieth and Forty-second streets. .....

Another son, Edward Sabine Renwick, born in New York city, 3 Jan., 1823, graduated at Columbia in 1839, and then, turning his attention to civil and mechanical engineering, became the superintendent of large iron-works in Wilkesbarre, Pa., but since 1849 has been engaged mainly as an expert in the trials of patent cases in the U. S. courts. In 1862, in connection with his brother. Henry B. Renwick, he devised methods for the repair of the steamer "Great Eastern" while afloat, and successfully accomplished it, replating a fracture in the bilge 82 feet long and about 10 feet broad at the widest place, a feat which had been pronounced impossible by other experts. He has invented a wrought-iron railway-chair for connecting the ends of rails (1850), a steam cut-off for beam engines (1856), a system of side propulsion for steamers (1802), and numerous improvements in incubators and brooders (1877-'86), and was one of the original inventors of the self-binding reaping-machine (1851). He has published a work on artificial incubation entitled "The Thermostatic Incubator " (New York, 1883).


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Sources of Information

  1. [1]'The English Influence On American Railroads' by EARL J. HEYDINGER, Railway and Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin, no. 91 (1954)
  2. [2] Waymarking.com: Morris Canal Reaction Turbine - Stewartsville, New Jersey
  3. [3] Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol 5, 1900