Paddle Wheels for Sailing Men-of-War

By Joseph Eliav, published March 2016


In 1720 Monsieur du Quest, a French engineer, presented to the Royal Society a paper titled ‘A Method for Rowing Men of War in a Calm’ in which he proposed to install man-operated paddle wheels on British sailing ships. The paper documented sea trials he had performed in 1693 with his invention installed on a French galley in Marseilles. A senior officer of the French galley squadron, Jean Antoine de Barras de la Penne, witnessed those tests and documented them in his notes. Based on these sources, which of course are not in total agreement, this article reconstructs the design and structure of du Quest’s mechanism and examines how it worked and how he implemented it for the sea trial on the galley. With this understanding, the article addresses the feasibility and practicality of the invention’s declared objective of rowing men-of-war in a calm.

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Filed under: Other (Eighteenth C) | Mediterranean
Subjects include: Ship Handling & Seamanship | Shipbuilding & Design

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