1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Berthon, Edward Lyon

BERTHON, EDWARD LYON (1813–1899), English inventor, was born in London, on the 20th of February 1813, the son of an army contractor and descendant of an old Huguenot family. He studied for the medical profession in Liverpool and at Dublin, but after his marriage in 1834 he gave up his intention of becoming a doctor, and travelled for about six years on the continent. Keenly interested from boyhood in mechanical science, he made experiments in the application of the screw propeller for boats. But his model, with a two-bladed propeller, was only ridiculed when it was placed before the British admiralty. Berthon therefore did not complete the patent and the idea was left for Francis Smith to bring out more successfully in 1838. In 1841 he entered Magdalene College, Cambridge, in order to study for the Church. There he produced what is usually known as “Berthon’s log,” in which the suction produced by the water streaming past the end of a pipe projected below a ship is registered on a mercury column above. In 1845 he was ordained, and after holding a curacy at Lymington was given a living at Fareham. Here he was able to carry on experiments with his log, which was tested on the Southampton to Jersey steamboats; but the British admiralty gave him no encouragement, and it remained uncompleted. He next designed some instruments to indicate the trim and rolling of boats at sea; but the idea for which he is chiefly remembered was that of the “Berthon Folding Boat” in 1849. This invention was again adversely reported on by the admiralty. Berthon resigned his living at Fareham, and subsequently accepted the living of Romsey. In 1873, encouraged by Samuel Plimsoll, he again applied himself to perfecting his collapsible boat. Success was at last achieved, and in less than a year he had received orders from the admiralty for boats to the amount of £15,000. Some were taken by Sir George Nares to the Arctic, others were sent to General Gordon at Khartum, and others again were taken to the Zambezi by F. C. Selous. Berthon died on the 27th of October 1899.