Sir William Congreve, 2nd Baronet

Sir William Congreve, 2nd Baronet (May 20 1772 – May 16, 1828), was an English inventor and rocket artillery pioneer distinguished for his development and deployment of Congreve rockets. He was son of Lt. General Sir William Congreve, 1st Baronet, the Comptroller of the Royal Laboratories at the Royal Arsenal, raised in Kent, England, educated at Singlewell School and educated in law at Trinity College, Cambridge. Congreve died in Toulouse, France.

Congreve Rockets

Congreve was inspired to work on iron-cased gunpowder rockets for use by the British military, by their use against British troops in India by Tipu Sultan during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. He first demonstrated solid fuel rockets at the Royal Arsenal in 1805. He considered his work sufficiently advanced to engage in two Royal Navy attacks on the French fleet at Boulogne, France, one that year and one the next. Parliament authorized Congreve to form two rocket companies for the army in 1809. Congreve subsequently commanded one of these at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.

Congreve rockets were used for the remainder of the Napoleonic Wars, as well as the War of 1812 -- the "rockets' red glare" in the American national anthem describes their firing at Fort McHenry during the latter conflict. They remained in the arsenal of the United Kingdom until the 1850s. Congreve was awarded the honorary rank of Lieutenant colonel in 1811 and was often referred to as "Colonel Congreve."

Other inventions

Besides his rockets, Congreve was a prolific (if indifferently successful) inventor for the remainder of his life. Congreve invented a gun-recoil mounting, a time-fuze, a rocket parachute attachment, a hydropneumatic canal lock and sluice (1813), a perpetual motion machine, a process of colour printing (1821) which was widely used in Germany, a new form of steam engine, and a method of consuming smoke (which was applied at the Royal Laboratory). He also took out patents for a clock in which time was measured by a ball rolling along a zig-zag track on an inclined plane; for protecting buildings against fire; inlaying and combining metals; unforgeable bank note paper; a method of killing whales by means of rockets; improvements in the manufacture of gunpowder; stereotype plates; fireworks; and gas meters. Congreve was named as comptroller of the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich from 1814 until his death. (Congreve's father Sir William Congreve had also held the same post.)

Congreve's unsuccessful perpetual motion scheme involved an endless band which should raise more water by its capillary action on one side than on the other. He used capillary action of fluids that would disobey the law of never rising above their own level, so to produce a continual ascent and overflow. The device had an inclined plane over pulleys. At the top and bottom, there travelled an endless band of sponge, a bed, and, over this, again an endless band of heavy weights jointed together. The whole stood over the surface of still water. The capillary action raised the water, whereas the same thing could not happen in the part, since the weights would squeeze the water out. Hence, it was heavier than the other; but as "we know that if it were the same weight, there would be equilibrium, if the heavy chain be also uniform". Therefore the extra weight of it would cause the chain to move round in the direction of the arrow, and this would go on, supposedly, continually.


In 1804 Congreve published "A concise account of the origin and progress of the rocket system". Publication of "A Concise Account of the Origin and Progress of the Rocket System" by William Congreve was in 1807. [Stephen Leslie (1887) "Dictionary of National Biography", Vol.XII, p.9, Macmillan & Co., New York [ Congreve, Sir William,] ] In 1814 Congreve published "The details of the rocket system". In 1827 "The Congreve Rocket System" was published in London. His other publications were: "An Elementary Treatise on the Mounting of Naval Ordnance" (1812); "A Description of the Hydropneumatical Lock" (1815); "A New Principle of Steam-Engine" (1819); "Resumption of Cash Payments" (1819) and "Systems of Currency" (1819).


* 1911 Encyclopedia, " [ Sir William Congreve] ".
* Frank H. Winter "The First Golden Age of Rocketry" (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990), 322p., illus. ISBN 0-87474-987-5

External links

* [ Royal Artillery of the Napoleonic Wars]

ee also

Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills

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