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Google doodle celebrates steam-engine pioneer and badass Richard Trevithick

Today's Google doodle celebrates a British inventor who played a major role in the industrial revolution, and who was also something of a steam-powered badass.

Today's Google doodle celebrates a British inventor who played a major role in the industrial revolution, and who was also something of a steam-powered badass. The doodle commemorates the colourful life of Cornish inventor Richard Trevithick, born today in 1771.

Trevithick built the first high-pressure steam engine in 1799, and the first full-scale working steam locomotive, which made the world's first industrial rail journey in Wales on 21 February 1804. He had a terrible head for business but a clear mischievous streak, betting on his engines, exhibiting them in a 'steam circus', and giving them names like Puffing Devil and Catch Me Who Can.

If you're thinking 'Hang on -- didn't George Stephenson invent trains an' that?', you'd be half-right: Stephenson built the first public railway line, and his Locomotion No. 1 steam locomotive hauled the first train in 1825 before it was superceded by Stephenson's famous Rocket.

Trevithick later had a crack at driving the first tunnel under the Thames but nearly drowned when it failed. He also invented a system for raising wrecked ships with air tanks, and, when one ship's owner refused to pay, he simply cut the ropes and let it sink again.

It's good to see Google celebrating a great British pioneer who never achieved the success he deserved during his life. In recent days, Google has also celebrated Robert Bunsen, the man behind the Bunsen burner and the inspiration for the hapless muppet scientist, and Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space.

Incidentally, tomorrow is Thunderbirds puppet-master Gerry Anderson's birthday. If the man behind Captain Scarlet, Stingray and Fireball XL5 doesn't deserve a doodle, then we don't know who does.