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F.H. Chapman, The First Naval Architect and his Work, by Daniel G. Harris

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F.H. Chapman, The First Naval Architect and his Work, by Daniel G. Harris


Conway Maritime Press, 1989, ISBN0-87021-052-1


This book, published some years ago, is an appreciation of the life and work of the famed designer Frederick Chapman. Most well-known for his book Architectura Navalis Mercatoria, published in facsimile (various editions), what is not so well-known is his other many achievements over a very long and productive life. Although British, he spent most of his professional career in Sweden and designed many successful vessels for the Swedish Navy. He was one of the first naval architects to use scientific methods to produce his designs, rather than the older empirical or trial-and-error methods. Some of these designs, such as Vasa, were disastrous. He calculated metacenters and centers of gravity, as well as conducted water tank experiments with different shaped bodies. His decorative work designs show that he was not only of a scientific but also artistic turn of mind. His was also a very inquiring mind.


The book is profusely illustrated with draughts designed by Chapman. It covers the years 1760 to 1808 in detail and shows Chapman’s hand not only in design but shipyard management, dockyard building design and dealing with the politics and personalities of the day.


There are numerous appendices, one of which may be of particular interest to 18th century British ship model-makers. It is a facsimile copy of  Chapman’s extensive notes and diagrams on the building and launching of a British 50-gun ship. Most, if not all of the scantlings are given. Although undated, it was probably written in around 1760.


All in all, a very readable account of a remarkable and very capable man. Highly recommended.

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