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Robert Foulis


1796 - 1866

Engineer, entrepreneur and inventor. Born in Glasgow, the son of a publisher, Foulis studied surgery at the University but abandoned this career for engineering. He left for Canada in 1818 on the death of his first wife following complications relating to childbirth and settled initially in Halifax (Nova Scotia) where he earned a living as a portrait painter. In 1822, he moved to Saint John (New Brunswick) where he became an engineer and a surveyor. He surveyed part of the Saint John river to assess its suitability for navigation and built a steam-boat for use on the river.

Foulis constructed New Brunswick's first iron foundry in 1825, lectured at the St. John Mechanics' Institute and formed a School of Arts in 1838. His inventions include a system for making gas for lighting from coal, an electric dynamo and, most notably, an automatic steam-powered foghorn. He never patented this device, which was subsequently copied by others. He died in poverty in Saint John.


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