Portal:Cornwall/Selected biography

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Selected biography

Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick (13 April 1771 - 22 April 1833) was a British inventor, engineer and builder of the first working steam locomotive. He was born in Tregajorran, in between Camborne and Redruth, which at the time was a rich mining area of Cornwall. The son of a mine 'captain' and a miner's daughter, as a child he would watch steam engines pump water from the deep tin and copper mines.

His first job was building and modifying steam engines, and as he became more experienced, he realised that improvements in boiler technology permitted the safe production of high pressure steam, and that this could be made to move a piston in a steam engine on its own account. In 1799 he became the first person to make high pressure steam work, and started building his first models of high pressure steam engines.

Trevithick built a full-size steam road locomotive in 1801 on a site near the present day Fore Street in Camborne, the 'Puffing Devil', and demonstrated it by successfully carrying several men up Fore Street and then continuing on up Camborne Hill, from Camborne Cross to the nearby village of Beacon. This event is recognised as the first demonstration of steam powered transportation, and it later inspired the popular Cornish folk song "Camborne Hill". Trevithick went on to work in Shropshire and then in Wales, where he designed and successfully tested the world's first railway locomotive.

Sir Humphry Davy
Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet (17 December 1778 – 29 May 1829) was a British chemist and inventor, best remembered today for his discoveries of several alkali and alkaline earth elements, as well as contributions to the discoveries of the elemental nature of chlorine and iodine. He invented the Davy lamp, which allowed miners to enter gassy workings. Berzelius called Davy's 1806 Bakerian Lecture On Some Chemical Agencies of Electricity "one of the best memoirs which has ever enriched the theory of chemistry." This paper was central to any chemical affinity theory in the first half of the nineteenth century. He was born in Penzance.

Sir Humphry Davy
Vice-Admiral William Bligh, FRS (9th September 1754 – 7th December 1817) was an officer of the British Royal Navy and colonial administrator. He is best known for the famous mutiny that occurred against his command aboard HMAV (His Majesty's Armed Vessel) Bounty and the remarkable voyage he made to Timor on the Bounty's launch after being set adrift by the mutineers. Born in St Tudy, Cornwall, Bligh was certainly not the vicious man portrayed in popular fiction, some claim his over-sensitivity and acid tongue damaged what would have otherwise been a distinguished career.

Richard Lemon Lander

Richard Lemon Lander (8 February 1804 – 6 February 1834) was a Cornish explorer of western Africa. In 1832 he became the first winner of the Royal Geographical Society Founder's Medal, "for important services in determining the course and termination of the Niger".

The son of a Truro innkeeper, Lander's explorations began as an assistant to the Scottish explorer Hugh Clapperton on an expedition to western Africa in 1825. After returning to Britain in 1828, he went to western Africa again in 1830, accompanied by his brother John. They landed at Badagri on 22 March 1830 and followed the lower Niger River from Bussa to the sea. After exploring about 160 kilometres of the Niger River upstream, they returned to explore the Benue River and Niger Delta. They travelled back to Britain in 1831.

In 1832, Lander returned again to Africa as leader of an expedition organized by Macgregor Laird and other Liverpudlian merchants, with the intention of founding a trading settlement at the junction of the Niger and Benue rivers. However, the expedition encountered difficulties, many personnel died from fever and it failed to reach Bussa. While journeying upstream in a canoe, Lander was attacked by African tribesmen and wounded by a musket ball in his thigh. He managed to return to the coast, but died there from his injuries.

In Truro, a monument to his memory by Cornish sculptor Neville Northey Burnard stands at the top of Lemon Street and one of the local secondary schools is named in his honour. In 1832 he became the first winner of the Royal Geographical Society Founder's Medal, "for important services in determining the course and termination of the Niger".

"King Mark of Cornwall", illustrated by Howard Pyle (1905)

Mark of Cornwall was a king of the Kingdom of Cornwall in the early 6th century. He is most famous for his appearance in Arthurian legend as the uncle of Tristan and husband of Iseult, who engage in a secret affair behind his back.

Legend says that Mark sent Tristan as his proxy to fetch his young bride, the Princess Iseult from Ireland. Tristan and Iseult fall in love, and, with the help of a magic potion, proceed to have a stormy love affair. Mark suspects of the affair and eventually, his suspicions are confirmed. In some versions, he sends for Tristan to be hanged, and Iseult to a leper colony. Tristan escapes the hanging and rescues Mark's bride from her confinement, later to be discovered by Mark. Mark eventually forgives them, with Isolde returning to Mark and Tristan leaving the country.

In the Prose Tristan, Mark's character deteriorates from a sympathetic cuckold to a downright villain. He rapes his niece and then murders her when she produces his son, Meraugis, and he murders his brother Baldwin as well. In earlier versions of the story Tristan dies in Brittany, far away from Mark, but in the Prose Tristan Mark stabs Tristan while he plays the harp under a tree for Iseult. Though this version of Mark's character was popular in other medieval works, including the Romance of Palamedes and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, modern versions of the Tristan and Iseult legend tend to take their inspiration from the older poetic material, and Mark becomes a sympathetic character once again. In these legends Mark is usually seen as ruling Cornwall from Tintagel Castle.