Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

Queensferry Crossing

The Queensferry Crossing, Scotland, under construction in 2016. Jacobs/Arup client engineers

David Elder (1785-1866), marine engineer - the "father of marine engineering on the Clyde"

David Elder

Notable designer and builder of industrial buildings and their power systems, including the premises of Robert Napier's firm. Designer and builder of a succession of engines and boilers for key vessels in the development of ocean-going steam navigation, between the mid-1830s and the early 1850s. His engineering genius was behind the reputation of Robert Napier as 'The Father of Clyde Shipbuilding'.

Designer and builder of machine tools for plate and section-working (including the machinery used in constructing the SS Great Britain) and for the particular needs of high-class marine engine manufacture. Elder was not a man to seek external recognition, and indeed it was Robert Napier who took the limelight for Elder's work. Tributes paid at the time of his death uniformly testify to his ability, and especially to his concern for the highest possible standards of firmness, efficiency and reliability in marine engines and boilers.

The fine engineers (including Charles Randolph, James Thomson of J and G Thomson, and his own son John Elder whom he trained became the professional leaders of the Clyde shipbuilding and marine engineering industries for many years after his death, and obviously imbued his high standards of design and construction, his absolute concern for the best. Charles Randolph and John Elder developed the compound marine engine and founded the Fairfield Shipyard, while James and George Thomson founded the Clydebank Yard, which moved down-river, and gave its name to the town of Clydebank.

The engines and boilers he designed and built were vital to the establishment of oceanic steam navigation in the period c1835-c1855.

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