Robert Foulis


1796 – 1866


Who was Robert Foulis?

Robert Foulis was a Canadian inventor, civil engineer and artist. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Foulis moved to Canada in 1818, following the death of his first wife in childbirth.

He settled in Saint John, New Brunswick where he was appointed deputy land surveyor in 1822. After he surveyed the upper Saint John River for the feasibility of steamshipping, he became involved with the buildings of several early steamboats and the first Saint John harbour ferry.

Foulis founded the province's first iron foundry in 1825 and a school of arts in 1838. Later, he patented a gas light apparatus that was later used in lighthouses and, thanks to his daughter, invented a steam-powered foghorn whose paternity was disputed between himself and the government of New Brunswick. It was while he was walking home on a foggy night and his daughter was playing her piano. He couldn't hear any of the notes except for very low ones. He thought that could fix all the problems that are causing ships to crash in the fog.

Due to business ventures of varying success and his failure at patenting his foghorn, Foulis died in poverty.

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May 5, 1796
  • Canada
Lived in
  • Saint John
  • Glasgow
Jan 28, 1866
Saint John

on July 23, 2013


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