Scots steamboat pioneer celebrated in new book
the Scottish entrepreneur who revolutionised travel with the first steam ferry outside America is being celebrated today with a new book to mark the 200th anniversary of his feat.
Henry Bell’s Comet, which operated between Glasgow and Greenock, was the world’s first mechanised passenger transport after a steamboat service on the Hudson in New York.
Author PJG (John) Ransom will launch his book, Bell’s Comet – How a Paddle Steamer Changed the Course of History, with a lecture today at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, which has a display about the vessel.
Mr Ransom described Bell as “our least-known national hero”, who had kicked off the rapid expansion of steamers across Europe in 1812.
He said: “Travellers by water were at last freed from dependence on the fickle effects of winds, currents, tides and oarsmen’s muscles.
“Since most early steamboat services ran parallel to the coast, or on rivers, many travellers by land were similarly freed from the efforts of animals or Shanks’ pony. It was a development comparable to the first use of the wheel.”
Martin Bellamy, of Glasgow Museums, said: “Bell was not an inventor but an entrepreneur whose motivation was getting customers to his hotel in Helensburgh and who tapped into the expertise of boatbuilders and engineers in Glasgow.”
Guthrie Hutton, a waterways writer, said: “Henry Bell sparked a step change in marine transport in Scotland.
“Other people were aware of the possibilities, but someone had to go first.”
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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