145th anniversary of death of Josef Ressel, inventor of propeller

Josef Ressel by Jan Vilimek

On Thursday, 145 years will have passed since the death of Josef Ressel, a Czech-born inventor, who was ahead of his time. Although he invented many different devices, he is mainly famous for being the first to invent and use the propeller. Alena Skodova has the details:

Josef Ressel by Jan Vilimek
The ball-bearing without oiling, press-roller for oil and wine, rolling mill and steam engine with air cooling - those were just a few inventions introduced by the 19th century Czech inventor Josef Ressel. Ressel was born in the east Bohemian town of Chrudim in 1793. He studied at an artillery school in Ceske Budejovice where he acquired outstanding knowledge of mathematics, geometry and technical drawing.

At the Vienna university Ressel attended lectures on forestry, chemistry, technology and natural sciences. But due to a lack of money he had to leave the university and became a forester after graduating from a forestry school. At his new job he came up with many gimmicks, for instance how to measure areas of woods quickly and reliably. The job instigated an interest in sea navigation in the young man, as his duty was to care for wood from deforesting to the building of sea ships. So among many other inventions, Ressel became famous for the propeller. In 1826 he applied for an Austrian patent for what he called 'a never-ending screw which can be used to drive ships both on sea and rivers' and he received the license in February 1827.

Ressel was the first to place the propeller between the helm and the stern so that the propeller worked under the water thus being most efficient.

But Ressel's authorship of the invention was put in doubt due to inertia of the Austrian Presidium of Imperial Sciences, when in a suspicious coincidence, English traders Sauvage and Smith came up with the same invention. It is believed now that someone might have secretly sold Ressel's invention to Great Britain. But in 1865, at its arbitrary session, the National Academy in Washington decided the matter in Ressel's favour. Ressel died of malaria in 1857 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where he's buried.