Much has justifiably been made about Jules Verne’s anticipation of future technologies in his imagined submarines, airplanes, and spacecraft that appear in his many novels. But Robert Fulton not only dreamed of future technologies, he implemented them.
Fulton is best known for his steamboat the Clermont, which proved the practicability of steam propulsion for river transportation. Despite several obstacles—including the opposition of many people who were frightened by the “fire-breathing monster with flailing fins” (paddlewheels), and one clergyman who declared it to be the beast from the Bible’s book of Revelation—Fulton’s creation began regular service on the North River, now the Hudson, between New York and Albany in September 1807. That achievement alone assured Fulton a place in the history books, but more was to come.