Chinese history records ‘wheel ships’ powered
by foot treadle being used in the Liu Song Dynasty (420–479). By the time of the Song Dynasty (960–1276) they were a significant part of the navy and had up to eleven wheels a side.
In an age of sail, a warship that could manoeuvre in still conditions would provide a winning advantage in any naval engagement. Da Vinci sketched a number of designs for paddle wheel ships including this side-wheel design to be powered by the crew using crank handles.
In 1803 the steam-powered paddle wheeler Charlotte Dundas towed two barges along the Forth and Clyde canal in Scotland and ‘paddle steamers’ dominated cargo and passenger ship design for the next fifty years.
Photo: Jorg Hackeman / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Robert Pernell / Shutterstock.com