John Ericsson

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John Ericsson (July 31, 1803 – March 8, 1889) was an American Swedish-born inventor and mechanical engineer, as was his brother, Nils Ericson. He was born at Långbanshyttan in Värmland, Sweden, but primarily came to be active in the United States.


Early career

John's and Nils's father Olaf Ericsson who worked as the supervisor for a mine in Värmland had lost money in speculations and had to move his family from Värmland to Forsvik in 1810. There he worked as a 'director of blastings' during the excavation of the Swedish Göta Canal. The extraordinary skills of the two brothers were discovered by Baltzar von Platen, the architect of the Göta Canal. The two brothers were dubbed cadets of mechanics of the Swedish Royal Navy and engaged as trainees at the canal enterprise. At the age of fourteen, John was already working independently as a surveyor. His assistant had to carry a footstool for him to reach the instruments during surveying work.

At the age of seventeen he joined the Swedish army in Jämtland, serving in the Jämtland Field Ranger Regiment, as a Second Lieutenant, but was soon promoted to Lieutenant. He was sent to northern Sweden to do surveying, and in his spare time he constructed a heat engine which used the fumes from the fire instead of steam as a propellant. His skill and interest in mechanics made him resign from the army and move to England in 1826. However, his heat engine was not a success, as his prototype was designed to use birch wood as fuel, and would not work well with coal, which was the main fuel used in England.

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