George Wallace Melville


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George Wallace Melville - Boilers

George Wallace Melville (1841 – 1912) may be known as one of ASME's most distinguished presidents, but it's how he achieved his nickname, "Father of the Navy," that made his career. Historical writer J.F. Nichols said Melville was seen as a prognosticator of the use of petroleum, assessing "a definite forward step in the utilization of the new fuel in this country was taken when the Engineer-In-Chief of the United States Navy Admiral George W. Melville, appointed the United States Naval Liquid Field Board."

Out of tragedy came part of his ascension through the naval ranks. Going with Lieutenant Commander George DeLong on an exploration to the North Pole, the ship became stuck in the ice for two years and eventually was crushed and sunk. Melville was able to get his crew safely out of the situation, eventually landing in Siberia. Partly from his courage in trying to rescue other members of the expedition, who were separated and did not survive, he was advanced a great deal up the chain of command.

George Wallace Melville - Boilers

George Wallace Melville made several important introductions to the naval world. The first was the water tube boiler.

Later in his career he made several important introductions to the naval world. The first was the water tube boiler. As explained by Sriram Balasubramanian on marineinsight.com, based on certain assumptions, "Cold water is fed to the top drum/steam drum, by water feed pump through a screw down non-return valve and a check valve. As we all know, hot water stays on top and relatively cold water (being denser) travels to the bottom of the drum. The steam/water drum has down comers connecting to the water ring at the bottom of the boiler. The down comers are located outside the boiler shell and are large in diameter when compared to the water tubes. As the cold water from the down comers reach the water ring in the bottom, the circulation starts within the tubes and drums. As the water particles enter the water tubes, which are inside the boiler furnace, they start to heat up and become wet steam with some bubbles. As they are less dense, they immediately rise up to the steam drum and thus are continuously being replaced by relatively cold water from down comers. Thus circulation happens naturally inside a water tube boiler."

Another invention was the vertical boiler used often for engineers. Among its advantages is the fact that it would allow water to have a much better chance at avoiding the firebox, greatly lessening the chances of an explosion. He also spearheaded the U.S. Naval Engineering Experiment Station, which was a focal point for research and inventiveness, and opened near the beginning of the 20th century. Still, despite his inventiveness by sea, Melville was actually known as a detractor of those who attempted to invent a means of flight, believing it to likely be futile. Of course, time in this instance proved him wrong.

Melville died in 1912 with his initiatives and inventions continuing to be utilized in World War I and beyond. According to the U.S. Navy, two ships have been named after him, the U.S.S. Melville and the oceanographic research ship Melville, in his honor.

Eric Butterman is an independent writer.

Melville may be known as one of ASME's most distinguished presidents, but it's how he achieved his nickname "Father of the Navy" that made his career.

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June 2012

by Eric Butterman, ASME.org