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British Industrial History

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Samuel Owen

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Samuel Owen (1774-1854)

Samuel Owen (1774-1854) has been called "the founder of the Swedish mechanical industry"

1774 May 12th. Born in Norton in Hales, Shropshire, England, died 15 February 1854 in Stockholm, was a British-Swedish engineer, inventor and industrialist. Samuel Owen moved to Sweden in 1807 and in 1809 founded a workshop in Stockholm that produced all kinds of mechanical components for the industry.

Family: He was married three times; First in England to Ann Spen Toft, then 1817 in Sweden toh Beata Carolina Svedell. Beata died 1822. Soon after he married Johanna Magdalena Elisabeth (1797–1880), also called "Lisette" (probably a children's name for Elisabeth). She was born Strindberg and was an aunt to August Strindberg. In total he had 17 children with his three wives.

Worked for Boulton and Watt

1800. Worked for Fenton, Murray and Wood

His first trip to Sweden was in 1804 to assist with the installation of four steam engines that were ordered by Baron Edelcrantz for industrial use from Fenton, Murray and Wood in Leeds, England, where Owen was employed at that time. The first engine was installed in the autumn 1804 in a textile factory at Lidingö outside Stockholm to replace horses that were used to drive the machines in the factory. After that installation work he went back to England but was asked once again in 1806 to come back to help in setting up another engine.

In 1807 he decided to stay in Sweden and in 1809 he opened his own workshop 'Kungsholmens Mekaniska Verkstad', situated at Kungsholmen in Stockholm. A street at Kungsholmen close to Stockholm City Hall is named after Samuel Owen, 'Samuel Owens gata'. Two of the original buildings that formed his workshop still remain.

Samuel Owen was also engaged in the development of steam engine driven ships and was the first person in Sweden to build a ship with a steam engine. His first ship was called Amphitrite, built in 1818 at his shipyard close the work shop, had a steam engine with 6 hp. His new steam ship was a sensation for the people around the waters around Stockholm but many were also skeptical of the new "fire and air engines" that required a lot of wood for the steam boiler. He also carried out tests with early type of propellers.

In July 1816 he presented the first propeller driven steamship "The Witch of Stockholm". These early propeller designs, however, required many years before they came into practical use. The steamships in those days were normally driven by paddle wheels.

He became one of the most recognized engineers and industrialists in Sweden. In 1843 he faced severe financial problems. His company was sold in 1844 and he became almost bankrupt. The government then decided to give him a lifetime pension with the motivation that he had made many important contribution for the development of the Swedish industry. However he continued to work and was employed for some years at Åkers Styckebruk, but in 1853 he became ill, and died in February 1854.

He was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1831.

There is a statue of him in Stockholm.

1872 Letter claiming him as the inventor of the Screw Propeller

A large beam engine produced by Owen and a lathe from his workshop were put on display at the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology (Tekniska Museet) in Stockholm. The engine was the biggest built by Samuel Owen, in 1832, for the coal mine at Höganäs, and was in operation until 1904 [1]. The engine remains on display in the museum in 2018, but unfortunately the impression is given that it is there under suffrance. Despite being in the centre of the largest hall, it seems to be 'the mammoth in the room', being partly hidden and dimly lit. Photographs of the engine as originally displayed may be seen here. See also Samuel Owen - 1832 Beam Engine.

A book about Samuel Owen (in Swedish) was published in 2009 ('Samuel Owen – teknik- och ångbåtspionjär' by Arne Sundström)

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Museum webpage on Samuel Owen
  • History of Fenton, Murray and Wood. A Thesis by Trevor Turner for the Victoria University of Manchester. UMIST. May 1966
  • Wikipedia]