Hulls, Jonathan (DNB00)
HULLS or HULL, JONATHAN (fl. 1737), inventor, was born at Campden, Gloucestershire, in 1699. He was the first who attempted practically to employ steam in propelling a vessel in water. His experiments were made on the Avon at Evesham in 1737, the main idea being to have a Newcomen engine—the only sort then known—on a tow-boat in front of the vessel which it was intended to propel, and connected with it by a tow-rope. Six paddles in the stern of the tow-boat were fastened to a cross axis connected by ropes to another axis which was turned by the engine. Hulls undoubtedly showed how to convert the rectilineal motion of a piston-rod into a rotatory motion, which is an essential principle in steam locomotion whether on land or water. But Hulls's experiment was a failure, and only excited derision.
The patent for his invention is dated 21 Dec. 1736, and his account of it appeared in a book (12mo, London, 1737) entitled 'Description and Draught of a new-invented Machine for carrying Vessels or Ships out of or into any Harbour, Port, or River against Wind and Tide, or in a Calm; for which his Majesty has granted Letters-patent for the sole benefit of the Author for the space of fourteen years.' The book, which is very rare, was reprinted in facsimile in 1855. De Morgan says that Hulls's work 'in all probability gave suggestions to Symington as Symington did to Fulton,' and that Erasmus Darwin [q.v.] was thinking of Hulls when he prophesied that steam would soon 'drag the slow barge.' In 1754 Hulls published 'The Art of Measuring made Easy by the help of a new he also wrote the 'Maltmakers' Instructor.'
[Quart. Rev. xix. 354, 355; Smiles's Lives of Boulton and Watt, pp. 72-4; De Morgan's Budget of Paradoxes, pp. 88, 254.]