Napier, David (DNB00)

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NAPIER, DAVID (1790–1869), marine engineer, was born in 1790, and with his cousin, Robert Napier (1791–1876) [q. v.] laid the foundation of the well-known firm of Napier & Sons, shipbuilders and marine engineers, of Govan, Glasgow. In 1818 he was the first to introduce British coasting steamers as well as steam-packets for the post-office service. He was also the first to establish a regular steam communication between Greenock and Belfast. For two winters his vessel, the Rob Roy, of about 90 tons burden and 30 horse-power, plied with regularity between these ports, and was then transferred to the English Channel to serve as a packet-boat between Dover and Calais. Shortly afterwards Napier caused an elaborate vessel, named the Talbot, to be built for him, and, placing in her two engines of 30 horse-power each, thus made her the finest steam vessel of her time. He employed her in running between Holyhead and Dublin. In 1822 he established a line of steam vessels between Liverpool, Greenock, and Glasgow, applying to the purpose the Robert Bruce, of 150 tons, with two 30-horse-power engines; the Superb, of 240 tons, with two 35-horse-power engines; and the Eclipse, of 240 tons, with two 30-horse-power engines. In 1826 Napier constructed machinery for the United Kingdom, the largest vessel yet designed; she was built by Mr. Steele of Greenock, and was 160 feet long, 26½ feet beam, and 200 horse-power.

Napier invented the steeple engine, which was a great improvement on the side lever as occupying much less space, and was one of the first, if not the first, to try the application of the surface condenser in marine engines. Probably, with the exception of Robert Napier, no man individually did more to improve the steam navigation of the world. For many years previous to his death he lived in retirement at Worcester. Late in life he proposed a plan for the removal of the Glasgow sewage by means of barges, and offered to subscribe 500l. towards testing the scheme. He died at 8 Upper Phillimore Gardens, Kensington, London, on 23 Nov. 1869, aged 79.

[Glasgow Daily Herald, 27 Nov. 1869, pp. 4, 5; Engineering, 3 Dec. 1869, p. 365; Illust. London News, 11 Dec. 1869, p. 602.]

G. C. B.