Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Perkins, Loftus

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PERKINS, LOFTUS (1834–1891), engineer and inventor, son of Angier March Perkins [q. v.], was born on 8 May 1834 in Great Coram Street, London. At a very early age he entered his father's manufactory, and in 1853–4 he practised on his own account as an engineer in New York. Returning to England, he remained with his father until 1862, and from that time to 1866 he was in business at Hamburg and Berlin, designing and executing many installations for warming buildings in various parts of the continent. He again returned to England in 1866, when he entered into a partnership with his father, which continued to the death of the latter in 1881.

Perkins inherited much of the inventive capacity of his father and grandfather, and from 1859 downwards he took out a very large number of patents. The chief subjects to which he directed his attention were, however, the use of very high pressure steam as a motive power, and the production of cold. His yacht Anthracite, constructed in 1880, was fitted with engines working with steam at a pressure of five hundred pounds on the inch, and it is probably the smallest ship that ever crossed the Atlantic steaming the entire distance. The Loftus Perkins, a very remarkable Tyne ferryboat, was worked with compound engines on his system with boilers tested to 200 lb. (Engineer, 2 June 1880). His experiments on the production of cold resulted in the ‘arktos,’ a cold chamber suitable for preserving meat and other articles of food. It is based on the separation of ammonia gas from the water in which it is dissolved, the liquefaction of the gas, and the subsequent revaporisation of the ammonia, with the reabsorption of the gas by the water. This was his last great work, and his unremitting attention to it caused a permanent breakdown of his health.

He became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1861, and of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1881. He died on 27 April 1891, at his house in Abbey Road, Kilburn, London. He married an American, a daughter of Dr. Patten. He left two sons, both of whom are engaged in their father's business, now carried on by a limited company.

[Obituary notice in the Engineer, 1 May 1891, which contains a full account of his various inventions, and private information; Proc. Inst. C. E. vol. cv.]

R. B. P.