George Stephenson (1781-1848)

English engineer.

Born on 9 June 1781 in Wylam, Northumberland, at the age of 10 George Stephenson began working full-time as an engine-man in the mines. He had no formal schooling but began his engineering career maintaining colliery winding and pumping engines in the pits.

In 1814 he built his first locomotive, Blucher, for the Killingworth Colliery and designed an improvised track to carry it. In 1819 Stephenson surveyed a railway for the Hetton Colliery and two years later was appointed engineer of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, the world’s first public passenger railway. In 1825 he completed the first locomotive for the new railroad, named Locomotion. He was then appointed Engineer for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. In 1829 Stephenson entered the locomotive Rocket, which he and his son Robert Stephenson designed, in the Rainhill Trials, winning decisively.

He later became Chief Engineer for the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway, the Manchester & Leeds Railway and the York & North Midland Railway. He also visited mainland Europe in the 1840s, advising on the construction of railways in Spain and Belgium.

A man who combined civil and mechanical engineering skills with shrewd determination, Stephenson remains one of the world's most famous railway engineers. He died in Chesterfield on 12 August 1848.