Ardaseer Cursetjee

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Ardaseer Cursetjee Wadia
Born October 6, 1808
Bombay, British India
Died November 16, 1877
Richmond, United Kingdom
Occupation Engineer

Ardaseer Cursetjee (Wadia) FRS (October 6, 1808 – November 16, 1877) was an Indian shipbuilder and engineer.

He is noted for having been the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is also recorded as having introduced several (at the time) novel technologies to the city of Bombay (now Mumbai), including gas lighting, the sewing machine, steam pump-driven irrigation and electro-plating.


Ardaseer Cursetjee was the son of Cursetjee Rustomjee, scion of the Wadia family of shipbuilders and naval architects, and master builder at the Bombay Dockyard (today, Mumbai's Naval Dockyard).

In 1822, aged 14, Ardaseer joined his father at the dockyards. He is described to have been particularly interested in steam engines.

In 1833, aged 25, he launched a small 60 ton ocean-going ship of his design. This ship, the Indus, would subsequently warrant a mention in his nomination for the Royal Society.

On March 10, 1834, in the presence of the Governor of Bombay, he had his house and gardens at Mazgaon lit using gas lighting.

In 1837, he was elected a non-resident member of the Royal Asiatic Society.

In 1839, at the age of 31, he traveled overland to England to further his studies of marine steam power on behalf of the East India Company. He recounted his journey in The Diary of an Overland Journey from Bombay to England, which was published in London in 1840. While in England, he constructed a steam engine, which he then had shipped to India for installation on the Indus.

On May 27, 1841, Cursetjee was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. The nomination, made by Spencer Compton, Marquess of Northampton, the then President of the Society, describes him as a "gentleman well versed in the theory and practice of naval architecture and devoted to scientific pursuits." It credits him with both the introduction of gas lighting to Bombay, as well as having "built a [sea-going] vessel of 60 tons to which he adapted a Steam Engine."

In 1855 he was elected a Justice of the Peace.

Ardaseer Cursetjee remained Chief Engineer until August 1, 1857, when he retired. He returned to England, where he settled. He died, aged 69, on November 16, 1877 in Richmond.

On May 27, 1969, the Indian Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in recognition of his contributions as "pioneer and innovator."