Sir Goldsworthy Gurney

Sir Goldsworthy was a man of his time and of his class. He belonged to the upper class meaning that he had access to schools and funds. So he had several different areas of expertise. He was a surgeon, chemist, lecturer, consultant, architect, builder, gentleman scientist and inventor.

His inventions

This gentleman invented a lot of different stuff, some that are famous and some that are not. This was common for the inventors of that time. They made a lot of different inventions as they kept challenging each other to improve the different machines and so forth that people had already invented.

The most well-known of his inventions:

• The oxy-hydrogen blowpipe
• The Bude light – a new form of illumination
• A series of early steam-powered road vechiles
• The blastpipe, which he lays claim to but is still disputed. This is a key component in steam locomotives, engines, and other coal-fired systems.
• A type of piano.
• The Gurney stove (heating).
• Ventilation work.
• The Gurney carriage (moderately successful).
• He started using steam-jet for cleaning sewers. In this he bridge his medical and mechanical knowledge. He was instrumental in eradicating cholera in the metropolis. He also dealt with mine fires very successfully.
• He modified the lighthouse lamps adding innovation in the light source, modifying the use of lenses and also making sure that seafarers could know which lighthouse they saw flashing by creating an on-off pattern distinct to each lighthouse.
• He was also involved in the development of the ammonia engine.

Looking at the list of accomplishment it is clear that he did a lot to improve the steam-powered vehicles and machines. In this period there were a lot of people working on the same type of projects, something that makes it difficult to see what can be credited to him alone.

The Gurney carriage

There were many people working on making steam powered carriages that would replace the horse and carriage. However, at the height of his career the steam-powered engines were not powerful enough nor advanced enough to be able to function safely and reliable.

He made two attempts, with the help of investors, to create and commercialise his patent for carriages. Both attempts were moderately successful, but there were several others that were also working on the same issues.

The blastpipe

This is the most controversial invention that he lays claim to. This is an essential part of any steam engine, however, there were several people who worked on this at the same time.
He had his supports and there were many articles written that discussed this issue.

His daughter was utterly devoted to him and she continued to fight for this cause even after his death. Getting recognition for his work was still very important and even today people are discussing this case.

Short biography

Gurney was born in 1793 in a rural part of England. His godmother was a Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte and his family was long established. So they had connections and a fair amount of money.
He became a surgeon and took over the practice from his mentor a Dr. Avery in 1813. The income from this practice allowed him to marry his first wife Elizabeth Symons in 1814. They had a daughter in 1815, and he continued to work as surgeon but also became increasingly interested in chemistry and mechanical science.
In 1820 he moved to London where he continued to practice as a surgeon, but also expanded his scientific knowledge. This lead to him starting to give lectures and he was appointed a lecturer at the Surrey Institution in 1822. The same year he had a son, but this child died relatively young in 1847.

He was well known for his ability to really express the scientific though clearly and therefore his papers and lectures were popular. He was fascinated with steam power, and made several discoveries in this field. In 1823 he was awarded the isis Gold medal of the Royal Society of Art for the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe.

He started working on a steam carriage in 1825, during which he developed the blastpipe. The carriages were solid in design and showed good promise, but he was unable to commercialise them. He lost his and his investors’ money, and all the controversy around this was expressed in scientific publication and also in committees in the House of Commons.

He moved around and he continued to invent different things in the field of construction and also in steam related projects. His wife died in 1837, and he moved around a bit with his daughter. In 1854 he was appointed Inspector of Ventilation to the new Houses of Parliament. He married again, to a 24 year old daughter of farmer. He was then 61. No children from this marriage and she was removed from his will but they never divorced.

He continued to experiment and also tried to start up a new carriage business. This again failed, but he made more progress this time. He passed away in 1875.