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Thomas Howard

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Thomas Howard (1796-1872), of Howard, Ravenhill and Co

c1796 Born in London

1835 Thomas Howard of Rotherhithe, a Civil Engineer, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1851 Thomas Howard 57, iron manufacturer employing 72 men, 12 boys and 12 women, lived in Rotherhithe[2]

182 Died at home in Lee, Kent.


1873 Obituary [3]

MR. THOMAS HOWARD was born in 1796, and was intended for the business of a manufacturing chemist.

However, after acquiring considerable knowledge in the various departments of chemistry, his attention was turned more particularly to the chemistry of steam, especially with regard to its employment in the steam engine.

His first invention, in 1825, was a vapour-engine. This was soon superseded by an improved vapour-engine and condenser. The object of this invention was to dispense altogether with the then cumbrous boilers, by injecting water upon a heated surface, whereby sufficient steam was generated to supply each stroke of the engine. This was accomplished by fitting a number of wrought-iron cups into a plate, the lower portion of the cups dipping into mercury, and the plate beneath the mercury being heated by a fire. A large amount of evaporating surface was thus procured, and care was taken to superheat the steam, which was used expansively.

Great difficulties were at first encountered in making the cups free from leakages; but afterwards the engine worked well, and great economy of fuel resulted. About that time tubular boilers came into use for marine purposes, and this, together with the difficulties attendant upon so great a novelty, caused the system, so far as the vaporizing was concerned, to be abandoned.

In 1835 H.M.S. Comet, which made one trip to Lisbon, in 1836 the steam-vessel 'Testa,' trading to Ramsgate and Margate, and in 1837 the 'Columbus,' built for Mr. Robert McCalmont, of London, and intended to steam to America, were all fitted with these vaporizers, as well as with Mr. Howard's system of condensation, in which the water of condensation was taken through a system of thin tubes, with cold water constantly circulating outside, the area of surface being sufficient to cool the water for the purpose of re-injection. By this means the same water was employed again and again, and a pure supply insured for the boilers. The plan answered well, and has frequently been employed.

In 1846 Mr. Howard adapted this improvement to ordinary steam engines.

In 1840 he joined the King and Queen Iron Works, Rotherhithe, with which members of his family had been connected for more than half a century. The work was a scrap-iron rolling mill, and had a considerable reputation for the iron produced. A forge was now added, and from that period to the present time iron work of the heaviest descriptions used in marine and other engines has been manufactured there.

In 1845, after a number of experiments, he succeeded in rolling at one heat the links with enlarged ends, for the suspension bridge at Pesth. The process mainly consisted of a combination of rolling transversely and endwise. Since then many large suspension-bridges have been completed with similar links : among them may be enumerated the Kieff Bridge, the Chelsea Bridge, and others of less importance; but by far the larger requirement for them has been in the construction of Warren girders.

In 1857 Mr. Howard introduced some improvements, and in the details of the machinery made many experiments upon wrought iron. He was a careful investigator into its properties under varying circumstances, and frequently wrote to the scientific journals, his favourite subject being steam. He strongly advocated the use of superheating and expansion, stating as his opinion that half the fuel might be saved by the proper employment of these principles. He lived to see these improvements worked out, and producing the economies he anticipated ; but, although one of the earliest experimenters upon some of the important changes lately perfected in the steam-engine, so long a period had elapsed since he was known in connection with them that his name is almost forgotten.

He kept up a constant interest in the Iron Works, in which he remained the senior partner until the time of his death, which took place on the 13th of August, 1872.

Mr. Howard was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 24th of May, 1835. As an evidence of the intercst he took in the Society, he bequeathed to it the sum of £500, free of legacy duty “to be invested, and the interest thereof to be applied in such manner and under such conditions and restrictions as the Council of the said Institution may think most expedient, for the purpose of presenting periodically a prize or medal to the Author of a treatise on any of the uses or properties of iron, or to the inventor of some new and valuable process relating thereto - such Author or inventor being a Member, Graduate, or Associate of the said Institution.”


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