Charles Parsons: Britain’s Inventor Par Excellence

On this day, June 13 in the year 1854, one of the greatest engineers that Great Britain has ever produced was born in London. His name is Charles Algernon Parsons, the inventor of multi-stage steam turbine and the founder of C. A. Parsons and Company.

Charles Parsons
Charles Parsons (Credit: wiki commons)

Charles was the youngest son of William Parsons, a famous astronomer. As a young boy, he was educated at home. Then he went to study mathematics at the Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. In 1877, he graduated from Cambridge with first class honours. In 1884, he developed a turbine engine and an electric generator while working at Clarke, Chapman and Co.
To manufacture and distribute his turbo generator machine, Charles established his first company, C. A. Parsons and Company in 1889. Subsequently, he founded an electric generation firm, the first to produce electricity using turbo generators. In 1897, he set up another company to manufacture marine steam turbine which would soon produce turbines to power the warships of Great Britain. Later, he also invented an early type of gramophone which he named as Auxetophone.

While on a cruise in the Caribbean Seas, Charles died of neuritis in 1931. He was 76. He was survived by his wife Katherine Bethell and two children.

The C. A. Parsons Company became the largest employer in Heaton, Newcastle with at least 7,000 engineering staff. In 1998, German-owned Siemens AG took over the factory.


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