The inventor of the steam turbine: Charles Parsons

Charles Parson’s yacht Turbinia, pictured here, was powered by his steam turbine. He dramatically demonstrated its speed at the British Navy Review before Queen Victoria in 1897 when it was easily the fastest vessel on view. The British naval establishment was impressed and soon adopted the turbine in its latest battleships (credit: Wiki)

A plentiful supply of cheap electricity, and much faster passenger steamships and military battleships. These were some of the things made possible by Charles Parsons, who grew up in Birr, and invented the steam turbine in 1887.

Charles was born in 1854 and came from a brilliant scientific lineage. His father was the famous astronomer, William Parsons, who had built the world’s largest telescope on the grounds of Birr Castle in the 1840s.

The steam turbine invented by Charles, hugely increased the power that could be harnessed from a steam engine. The invention made him a rich man, and it changed the world.

LISTEN:   Charles Parsons interview with  Birr Castle tour guide, and retired scientist, John Joyce

First broadcast on 103.2 Dublin City FM


  1. Was looking for a suggestion on the ideal book title as a family present to a brother a Mech.Engineer who has a major interest in Parsons and his steam invention etc.It is for his 80th birthday.
    Our gratitude in anticipation

    • Hi Joe. You could try my own book, How Irish Scientists Changed the World, 2013, Londubh Books, which has a chapter devoted to the story of Charles Parsons. See here –

  2. Thank you Sean.Sounds good and I will check it out.Is it available in any Dublin bookshops?Was really in quest of a book fully dealing with Parsons and his inventions
    Kind regards

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