Pioneering Minds Podcast Series:

Episode 1 – Introducing Charles Parsons

In this podcast, Ruth explores the life and times of Charles Parsons, the eminent engineer most known for inventing the steam turbine to generate electricity.

Episode 2 – Introducing Lady Katherine Parsons

In this podcast, Ruth provides a brief insight into the life of Lady Katherine, wife of Charles Parsons, engineer and co-founder of the Women’s Engineering Society. Ruth explores the role Lady Katherine played in championing inclusion and diversity for women in the engineering sector.

Episode 3 – Introducing Rachel Parsons

In this podcast, Ruth provides an insight into the life of Rachel Parsons, the only daughter of Charles Parsons. Rachel was one of the first three women to study Mechanical Sciences at Cambridge, despite women being barred from getting degrees at the time. Ruth explores Rachel’s roles both during and after World War 1, an extremely important time for women in engineering.

Episode 4 – Coming soon…Turbinia

Episode 5 – Coming soon

Black and white photo of Charles Parsons - from a snapshot by Lady Parsons in South Africa, 1929

Charles Algernon Parsons

Charles Parsons (1854 - 1931) was a prominent engineer in the North East, best known for inventing the steam turbine, which revolutionised marine transportation and the mass production of electricity.

Charles founded his world famous engineering works, C. A. Parsons & Company, in Heaton, Newcastle in 1889; this was established to produce turbo generators to his design. In the same year, he set up the Newcastle and District Electric Lighting Company (DisCo) and in 1890, DisCo opened Forth Banks Power Station, the first power station in the world to generate electricity using steam turbo generators.

Photo of Ruth Baldesera at Siemens

Ruth Baldasera: Quality Engineer and Factory Historian

Ruth is a Quality Engineer at Siemens, situated at the former C A Parsons factory in Heaton, where she has worked for 10 years. Her day job includes departmental auditing, managing customer feedback, facilitating corrective and preventative actions for improvement, and managing over 700 controlled documents / specifications, for what is an extremely diverse business.

Ruth became interested in the history of Parsons, as her job involved research into how particular components were made many years ago, and replacing those parts using modern engineering methods, in line with current standards. The name ‘Parsons’ popped up frequently on the drawings and specifications she handled. This lead to Ruth's long term passion for the technology that Parsons engineered and how his genius changed the world.

Episode 1: Introducing Charles Parsons

Episode 1: Introducing Charles Parsons - Accompanying Images

Explore these images while listening to the podcast.

Image 1: The Third Earl of Rosse – Charles Parsons’ father
Image 2: Birr Castle in 2017
Image 3: The Leviathan of Parstonstown in 2017
Image 4: Mary Rosse – Charles Parsons’ mother
Image 5: The four boys by Mary Rosse
Image 6: Charles as a child at Birr Castle
Image 7: Untitled early machine ref Clarke Chapman
Image 8: Turbinia
Image 9: Turbo driven fan at Clara Vale in 1896
Image 10: Metro fans Prudhoe Street during the work
Image 11: Katherine Parsons
Image 12: Family at Elvaston Hall
Image 13: Holeyn Hall c1900
Image 14: Charles on last cruise
Image 15: Parsons Polygon

Book with apprenticeship document for Charles Parsons

Take a closer look...

After graduating from Cambridge University in 1877 with a distinguished degree in mathematics, Parsons carried out an apprenticeship at Armstrong Works at Elswick, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Despite having a degree, anybody who wanted to become an engineer at the time had to undergo an apprenticeship, as there was no qualification in engineering offered at university.

Episode 2: Introducing Lady Katherine Parsons

Episode 2: Introducing Lady Katherine Parsons - Accompanying Images

Explore these images while listening to the podcast.

Image 1: Katherine Parsons
Image 2: 1881 census showing Sir Charles living with his brothers
Image 3: HH book
Image 4: WW1 Women – Brazing blades
Image 5: WW1 Women – Drilling cylinder blade stops
Image 6: WW1 Women – Filling out brush boxes
Image 7: WW1 Women – Forming up blading
Image 8: WW1 Women – Turning high for piston rings
Image 9: WW1 Women – Working out lathe
Image 10: Victory Book
Image 11: Women’s Engineering Society logo
Image 12: Memorial at Kirkwhelpington Church
Image 13: Stones before
Image 14: Complete stones
Image 15: Lady Parsons in America with Sir Charles 1924


Images 3 to 9: Credit to Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Episode 3: Introducing Rachel Parsons

Episode 3: Introducing Rachel Parsons - Accompanying Images

Explore these images while listening to the podcast.

Image 1: Rachel Parsons
Image 2: Early Power Station Turbine being installed
Image 3: Turbinia at the Discovery Museum

Image 7: Holeyn Hall c1900
Image 8: WW1 Women – Working out the lathe (Credit to Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums)
Image 9: Rachel Parsons
Image 10: 1950 at Westminster Abbey

Image 12: Rachel Parsons

Here at The Common Room, we are passionate about linking the heritage stored within our collection to past and present engineering of the North East. Working with our industry partners and with thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are able to bring to life the stories of influential engineers from the region, and encourage you to explore and be inspired by your heritage, from wherever you are in the world.

Royal Visit to the Parsons Factory