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Seppings, Sir Robert

SEPPINGS, SIR ROBERT (1767-1840), English naval architect, was born at Fakenham, Norfolk, in 1767, and in 1782 was apprenticed in Plymouth dockyard. In 1800, when he had risen to be master shipwright assistant in the yard, he invented a device which, as compared with the laborious process of lifting then in vogue, greatly reduced the time required for effecting repairs to the lower portions of ships in dry dock. His plan was to make the keel of the ship rest upon a series of supports placed on the floor of the dock and each consisting of three parts two being wedges arranged one on each side of the keel at right angles to it, with their thin ends together, while the third was a vertical wedge fitting in and supported by the lower pair. The result was that it became possible in a comparatively short time to remove these supporting structures by knocking out the side wedges, when the workmen gained free access to the whole of the keel, the vessel remaining suspended by the shores. For this invention Seppings received 1000 from the Admiralty, and in 1804 was promoted to be a master shipwright at Chatham. There, in spite of the repugnance to innovation displayed by the naval authorities of that period, he was able to introduce important improvements in the methods of ship-construction. In particular he increased the longitudinal strength of the vessels by a system of diagonal bracing, and modified the design of the bows and stern, so that they became stronger, not only offering better protection than the old forms to the crews against the enemy's fire, but also permitting a powerful armament to be fitted. Seppings, who received a knighthood in 1819, was appointed surveyor of the navy in 1813, and held that office till his retirement in 1832. He died at Taunton on the 25th of September 1840.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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