On This Date in History: Robert Fulton is best known in school books for his development of the steamboat. He did not invent the steamboat but simply came up with a more practical version on August 17, 1807 that first churned up the waters of the Hudson river. The first steamboat had comem about years before in the same year as the American Constitutution. On August 22, 1787 brass worker John Fitch demonstrated his 12 paddle steamboat on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Some who witnessed the event said it looked like a bug crawling across the water. Fitch didn’t have any money to further develop his invention but said that “the day will come when some more powerful man will get fame and riches from my invention.” Fitch was quite the prophet as Fulton was the one who cashed in.
But, Fulton had been toying with all sorts of watercraft and on this date in 1801, Robert Fulton was given the chance to demonstrate his submarine to Napoleon Bonaparte. The emperor had been having a terrible time with pesky bullies of the high seas, the British. But, Napoleon wasn’t just going to go into the project blind. He took the carrot and stick approach as he offered Fulton 400,000 francs if he sank a British vessel with his new weapon of war. The submarine, called the Nautilus, was 21 feet long and either a two man crew or Fulton and a two man crew. It has sails for it to move on the surface and a hand cranked propeller for underwater propulsion. He also had developed a torpedo of sorts. Well, try as he might to grab the 400,000 franc carrot that Napoleon dangled in front of him, Fulton failed to sink a single British ship of any kind all summer long and Napoleon lost interest.
What’s an inventor to do? Why go to the competition of course! Fulton then took his machine across the channel to the British. They thought that the submarine was too impractical but they did take an interest in the torpedo. So, they took Fulton out with a full expedition in order to test the torpedo against a French ship. Ships were attacked but each time, the torpedo blew up harmlessly next to the French vessels. In 1805, the government funded an experiment with a new and improved torpedo but all that did was blow up the ship on which the experiment took place. That was the end of that. So, what’s an inventor to do? Why go to the United States Congress of course! In 1810, Fulton got a congressional appropriation of $5000 to continue his testing, to no avail. By that time, Fulton had already started cashing in on the steamboat. But, Fulton did lay the ground work for submarine naval warfare down the road. His design, aside from the sails, looks remarkably similar to modern subs. About a century later, the Germans had improved on his submarine idea and the development of torpedoes to much success in the First World War. And the horizontal rudders that Fulton had introduced with his 1801 submarine for depth control is a standard feature on all modern submarines. I had always thought that the name Nautilus, which was used for the first nuclear powered submarine, was the brainchild of Jules Verne and his Captain Nemo of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But, Verne published his book in 1870, well after Fulton’s underwater craft…so Fulton should get credit for that too!
Weather Bottom Line: The story is pretty much the same with our area generally in a sorta half donut hole. The main shortwave still comes down from say St. Louis to Paducah. The heaviest snow should be well to our south and then to our east. Now, the GFS wants’ to toss out a half inch of snow on Saturday night. The NAM keeps us dry the whole time. I still think its unlikely that our area gets nothing but that liklihood increases to the likely category for the northern half of the viewing area. A dusting of sorts won’t be out of the question for late Saturday. I think my original assessment that this could be a bit colder and more extended than the pervasive opinion is probably in the cards. Upper 30’s to near 40 on Saturday low to mid 30’s on Sunday and probably still in the 30’s on Monday and I betcha we’re in the teens on Monday morning. A gradual warm up to the mid 40’s on Tuesday and then a trend toward milder air for the middle of the week, though it may be a bit damp. It’s getting pretty close to game time for this so its not real likely for a big change but, if the guy coming down from the northwest is some 75 miles farther to the east, then we may get something more worthwhile. But, as I said, that is not a real good bet at this point as I find no data that supports that scenario at all. The Japanese model and the Canadian model have a bit more precip filled in around the state but Louisville is still in a semi donut.