Francis Pettit Smith

Sir Francis Pettit Smith (1808 - 12 February 1874) was a British inventor and, along with Frédéric Sauvage and John Ericsson, one of at least three people disputably viewed as inventor of the screw propeller.

Early life

He was born at Hythe, Kent where his father was the postmaster. He was educated at a private school in Ashford run by the Rev. Alexander Power, before working as a grazing Farmer on Romney Marsh, later moving to Hendon in Middlesex where he continued to farm.


As a boy he had acquired great skill in the construction of model boats and took special interest in their means of propulsion. This fascination with boats remained with him and in 1834 on a reservoir near his farm, he perfected the propulsion of a model boat by means of a wooden screw driven by a spring. He became utterly convinced that this form of propulsion was greatly superior to the paddle wheel which was in use at the time. The following year he built a superior model with which he performed a number of experiments at Hendon and in 1836 took out a patent for propelling vessels by means of a screw revolving beneath the water at the stern.He was instrumental in persuading Isambard Kingdom Brunel in changing the design of the SS "Great Britain" from paddle to screw propulsion, Brunel having Smith's boat "Archimedes" on loan for trials. His chief engineer was Thomas Pilgrim b 1800. He also had a long and troubled history persuading the Admiralty to adopt steam propulsion.

Later life

In 1860 the government appointed him to the post of curator of the Patent Museum at South Kensington. In 1871 a knighthood was conferred upon him.

Smith died at 15 Thurlow Place, South Kensington in February 1874, and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London. [ [ brompton football equipment training folding at ] ]

Personal life

Smith married twice and had children by each marriage.


Smith negotiated with the Governors of Dulwich College for the lease of a plot of land on Sydenham Hill where he built his house named Centra House in 1864. The house still stands today. In the grounds Smith had planted a considerable shrubbery and had use of woodlands down to College Road. A later resident added the terracotta fountain and renamed the house Dilkoosh. It was later renamed to its present title - Fountain Lodge.


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