Sir Charles A. Parsons (1854-1931) invented the steam turbine in 1884, when he filed a patent for a compound reaction steam turbine. This pioneer machine, which was of "parallel flow" design, was a success and in the next few years important problems regarding lubrication, blade efficiency and control were solved, together with the application of the turbine to dynamos (turbo-generators) for generating electricity.

The aim of Parsons' Marine Steam Turbine Co., formed in January 1884, was to thoroughly test the application of his well-known steam turbine to the propulsion of vessels. The decision was thus taken to construct an experimental highspeed craft of around 100 feet length to be powered by a 1,000 horsepower turbine. The resulting vessel became the Turbinia or, initially, simply the Experimental Launch.

By February 1894 the vessel was under construction and plans were in hand for fitting a compound "radial flow" turbine—less effective, but better known than the "parallel flow" design—developing some 1,500 h.p. at 2,000 r.p.m., with direct drive to a single twobladed propeller. The vessel was apparently launched without publicity on 2nd August, 1894, less than a year after the preliminary designs were started.

The Turbinia attracted worldwide attention at the 1897 Spithead Naval Review by traveling more than 34 knots. This remarkable performance accelerated the acceptance of the steam turbine as an alternative to the steam reciprocating engine on ships as well as for central electric light and power stations.

The Turbinia was restored and, as of 2016, is on display at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne. See ASME website for more information