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Spectacle and Witnessing: Constructing Readings of Charles Parsons’s Marine Turbine

Leggett, Don (2011) Spectacle and Witnessing: Constructing Readings of Charles Parsons’s Marine Turbine. Technology and Culture, 52 (2). pp. 287-309. ISSN 0040-165X. (doi:10.1353/tech.2011.0043) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)
Official URL
http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/tech.2011.0043

Abstract

In 1897 the British Admiralty transformed Spithead and the river Solent, which runs alongside the maritime town of Portsmouth, into a theater where popular naval culture and technology met. The 1897 naval review celebrated Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, but also had significance as the occasion of the first public display of Charles Parsons’s Turbinia, an experimental vessel thirty-two meters long and approximately the size of a torpedo-boat destroyer, fitted with his marine steam turbine.1 Historians of technology have referred to this moment as part of the “turbine revolution” that changed how societies produced power and propelled themselves across oceans and through skies.2

A considerable amount of revolutionary rhetoric has certainly surrounded the turbine’s early history. Emile Weyl, a retired French naval officer who wrote for Thomas Brassey’s influential Naval Annual, remarked that “the Turbinia is perhaps destined to revolutionize naval construction.”3 Weyl was joined by Brassey, a politician and publisher interested in naval matters and civil engineering, and numerous naval officers, engineers, and enthusiasts who subscribed to the possibility that a turbine revolution would strongly tip the balance of the European naval arms race in Britain’s favor. Turbinia, which broke the then-maximum speed record for a vessel of its size, demonstrated the potential role of the turbine in the large technological systems upon which naval supremacy rested. Indeed, Admiral Sir John Fisher, who between 1890 and 1915 held a number of high-profile posts in the Admiralty, made the turbine a central feature of the design for HMS Dreadnought (1906).4 A reassessment of the initial response to Turbinia and marine turbine, however, provides a far more complicated account than is usually presented.5

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1353/tech.2011.0043
Additional information: questionable eprint id: 31134;
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of History > Centre for the Study of War, Propaganda and Society
Depositing User: Stewart Brownrigg
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2014 00:05 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 12:29 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/40713 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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