Robert Whitehead

Robert Whitehead

Male 1823 - 1905  (82 years)    Has 2 ancestors and 40 descendants in this family tree.

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  • Name Robert Whitehead 
    Relationshipwith Francis Fox
    Born 3 Jan 1823  Bolton, Lancaster Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 14 Nov 1905  Beckett Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I595777  Geneagraphie
    Last Modified 13 Feb 2009 

    Father James Whitehead,   b. 1783,   d. 13 May 1850, Lower Broughton, Lancaster Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 67 years) 
    Mother Ellen Swift,   b. 1795,   d. 18 Feb 1875, Lower Broughton Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 80 years) 
    Married 28 Feb 1813  Bolton Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F277741  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Frances Maria Johnson,   b. 23 Sep 1821, Boville Manor Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 9 Apr 1883, Springfield, Ryde, Isl.of Wight Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 61 years) 
    Married 30 Mar 1846  Old Byland, Yorkshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
    +1. James Whitehead
    +2. Alice Whitehead,   b. 31 Mar 1851, Triest Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 18 Jan 1936, Wien, Österreich Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 84 years)
    Last Modified 29 Apr 2017 
    Family ID F258266  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    Robert Whitehead with battered test torpedo Fiume
    Robert Whitehead with battered test torpedo Fiume

  • Notes 
    • English engineer. He was born the son of a cotton-bleacher, in Bolton , England.
      He developed the first self-propelled torpedo in 1866. He thus introduced the world to a weapon that almost changed the course of history during both World Wars.
      "But for Whitehead, the submarine would remain an interesting toy, and little more" - RN Admiral H.J. May, 1906
      "The only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril" - Sir Winston Churchill , British Prime Minister during WWII.
      Whitehead would eventually leave his assets to his granddaughter Agathe Whitehead who, in 1911, would be married to naval commander Georg Ludwig von Trapp who would use the torpedoes in his submarines in World War I .
      Whitehead is buried at the Parish Church of St Nicholas , Worth in Crawley West Sussex with his wife. His grave is visible from the church gate at the left hand side of the church, and is encompassed with blue railings. His epitaph reads "His fame was known by all nations hereabouts".
      Robert trained as an engineer and draughtsman, attended Manchester's Mechanics Institute, then initially worked in a shipyard in Toulon, France, and then as a consultant engineer in Milan, Italy. He then moved to Trieste, on the Adriatic coast.
      Robert's work in Trieste was noticed by the founders of a metal foundry called Fonderia Metalli situated in Rijeka in Croatia . In 1856 Whitehead accepted the job as manager of the company. He also changed its name to Stabilimento Tecnico di Fiume, and began producing ship steam boilers and engines, which were the most modern products of that era. The company undertook work for the Austro-Hungarian Navy .
      Meeting Luppis
      During the early 1860s Robert made a contract with the local engineer Giovanni Luppis in order to perfect Luppis' invention of the first prototypes of a self-propelled torpedo in 1860. Luppis had recently retired to Trieste from the Austrian Navy. Here he tried to realize his long-time idea of the "coast saviour" ( Croatian : Spasilac obale), a new naval weapon. The weapon was a low-profile surface boat, propelled by compressed air, and controlled by ropes from the land.
      The first torpedo
      Robert's initial torpedo experiments were conducted with the help of his 12 year-old son, John, and a workman, Annibale Ploech.
      This resulted in Minenschiff, the first self-propelled (locomotive) torpedo, officially presented to the Austrian Imperial Naval commission on 21 December 1866.
      The Austrian Gunboat Gemse was adapted for launching in Fiume (Rijeka) shipyard of Schiavon. This ship was equipped with a launching barrel, which was Whitehead's invention. More than 50 launch trials were performed in front of the factory, in Fiume (Rijeka) bay. The gunboat's commander was a frigate lieutenant, Georg Hoyos, who later married Robert Whitehead's daughter Alice.
      By 1870 Robert had managed to increase the torpedo's speed to 7 knots (13 km/h) and it could hit a target 700 yards (640 m) away
      Key innovations
      A self-regulating device which kept the torpedo at a constant preset depth. The torpedo was driven by a small reciprocating engine run by compressed air; a hydrostatic valve and pendulum balance , connected to a horizontal rudder, which controlled the depth at which it ran.
      In 1898, Whitehead purchased the newly invented gyroscope mechanism from its Austrian inventor Mr Ludwig Obry, who was also a naval officer. The gyro enabled the torpedo to be stabilised directionally.
      Whitehead & Co.
      Though the product was promising, the torpedo did not help 'Stabilimento Tecnico di Fiume' survive and it went bankrupt in 1873. Robert took it over in 1875 and transformed it into a private company called "Torpedo- Fabrik von Robert Whitehead". Later, the company was transformed into a stock company "Whitehead & Co.", Societa in Azioni.
      Vickers Ltd . and Armstrong-Whitworth & Co. bought the company from Whitehead family, so it remained in English hands till the beginning of World War I.
      Robert was known to be paranoid about his trade secrets, and employees were often sworn to secrecy about the guidance mechanisms employed in the Whitehead torpedoes.
      Use of torpedo
      Most of the world's major navies took note of the development of this device by the late 1880s. Even the extremely reduced post Civil War U.S. Navy was not indifferent to torpedo development; in fact, it had established a Torpedo Facility in Newport RI in 1870.
      Three naval actions during the late nineteenth century changed the world navies' perception of the torpedo:
      In 1891, in the midst of the Chilean Civil War, the Chilean naval vessel Almirante Lynch torpedoed and sank in port the rebel Chilean armored vessel Blanco Encalada with a 14-inch (360 mm) Whitehead torpedo at the close range of one hundred yards.
      In 1894 in the midst of the Brazilian Civil War, the rebel Brazilian naval vessel Aquidaban was torpedoed and sunk at night while moored in a roadstead by the Brazilian naval torpedo gunboat Gustavo Sampaio with a 14-inch (360 mm) Schwartzkopf torpedo, and perhaps also by the torpedo boat Affonso Pedro.
      In 1895 during the Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese battleship Ting Yuen was put out of action in port by multiple torpedo hits over the course of two nights by several Japanese torpedo boats.
      The risks of torpedoes to the ships that carried them were shown, however, at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba , in July 1898, when Spanish cruiser Vizcaya was seriously damaged when one of the vessel's own torpedoes was detonated by a shell hit.
      In 1940, the German heavy cruiser Blücher was sunk during the invasion of Norway by two at that time very antiquated Whitehead torpedoes



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