John Robertson (1782-1868) was the engineer who designed and built the engine for the steamship Comet. After an apprenticeship as a spinning wheel wright and at a Perthshire cotton works he came to Glasgow as a machine maker. He became interested in steam heating, engines and boiler efficiency and, after setting up on his own account in Dempster Street in 1810, he developed systems for heating mills and factories.
The Comet was only the second steamship ever to be built in Britain, the first being the Charlotte Dundas. Robertson designed and built the engine at his workshops in Dempster Street. After the Comet was wrecked in 1820, his engine was salvaged and in 1862 it was presented to the Science Museum in London. Robertson became a steamship operator but was bankrupted in 1828 and lived the rest of his life in genteel poverty. He is buried in Glasgow's Southern Necropolis.
Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Museums
Charlotte Dundas, Comet, engineers, heating engineers, machine makers, marine engineering, marine engineers, Science Museum, Southern Necropolis, steamship owners, steamships, wrights