George Stephenson, 1781–1848, British engineer, noted as a locomotive builder. He learned to read and write in night school at the age of 18, while working in a colliery. He constructed (1814) a traveling engine, or locomotive, to haul coal from mines and in 1815 built the first locomotive to use the steam blast. He also devised (c.1815) a miner's safety lamp at about the same time as did Sir Humphry Davy, whose lamp was adopted in 1816; it embodied some features of the Davy lamp and is considered by some to have antedated Davy's invention. His locomotive the Rocket bested the others in a contest in 1829 and was used on the Liverpool-Manchester Railway. He became engineer for several of the railroads that rapidly grew up and was consulted in the building of railroads and bridges in England and in other countries. His son Robert Stephenson, 1803–59, and a nephew, George Robert Stephenson, 1819–1905, were also railroad engineers, and both designed numerous bridges.
See L. T. Rolt, The Railway Revolution: George and Robert Stephenson (1962); R. M. Robbins, George and Robert Stephenson (1966).