A brilliant painter, engineer, and inventor, Robert Fulton (1765-1815) is best known for launching the first commercially successful steamboat. He was born in New Britain, Pennsylvania on November 14, 1765 and as a boy excelled at drawing, painting, and mechanics. Upon completing an apprenticeship to a Philadelphia jeweler, Fulton supported himself as a painter of portraits and landscapes. In 1786 he moved to England to study painting under Benjamin West but grew more interested in engineering and naval warfare. While living in France between 1797 and 1806, Fulton built the submarine Nautilus (1800) and an experimental steam-powered vessel (1803).
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