Robert Napier, a Scottish engineer, born in Dumbarton, June 18, 1791. The son of a blacksmith, he preferred serving an apprenticeship to that trade to going to college. In 1811 he went to Edinburgh, but had little success, and afterward to Glasgow, where he was employed a short time with Mr. W. Lang, who manufactured jacks and machinery for calendar works. In 1815 he purchased with the help of his father a blacksmith's establishment at the Gallowgate of Glasgow, and set up business for himself. In 1823 he constructed his first marine engine, the forerunner of a large number of works of a similar character. In 1830, in conjunction with the city of Glasgow steam packet company, he established a line of vessels which remained unsurpassed till superseded by railways. In 1834 he furnished the Dundee and London shipping company with the Dundee and Perth steamships; in 1836 the East India company with the Berenice; and, in addition to several other works, in 1840 supplied Samuel Cunard with his first four steamers. He built in 1856 the iron steamship Persia, of 3,600 tons.
In 1859 the firm of Robert Napier and son undertook the construction for the British navy of the Black Prince, of 6,100 tons, in 186o of the Hector, of 4,060 tons; and they have constructed steam rams and iron-clad ships of war for foreign governments. Mr. Napier received the great gold medal of honor at the Paris exposition of 1855, and the decoration of the legion of honor.