Authorised form of nameErskine; Robert (1735 - 1780)
Dates1735 - 1780
Place of birthDunfermline, Fife, Scotland
Date of birth07 September 1735
Place of deathNew Jersey, USA
Date of death02 October 1780.
Dates and placesBurial: Ringwood Manor in Ringwood State Park in New Jersey.
Ringwood Company ironworks was established in 1742 by five members of Newark's Ogden family. Located in Passaic County, the ironworks were operated until 1764 by the Ringwood Company, and later by Peter Hasenclever (1716-1793) as an agent for the company until he was replaced first by John Jacob Faesch (1729-1799) in 1769, and then by Robert Erskine (1735-1780) who came to America in 1771 to manage the iron ore mines at Ringwood and Charlottesburgh in Upper Passaic Co., New Jersey. Erskine immediately set about trying to make the operation profitable. His efforts were cut short by the Revolutionary War. Erskine was sympathetic to the American cause, but worried that he might lose his workers to the army, he organized them into a militia and was appointed a militia captain in August of 1775.

Because of its remoteness from the enemy, Ringwood was the only permanent barracks for revolutionary troops in New Jersey, and its forges supplied much needed ammunition and weapons. Once the war broke out in earnest there was concern among the rebels that the British warships would use the Hudson river to attack northern forts and separate New England from the rest of the colonies. Erskine, ever the engineer, designed a tetrahedron-shaped marine Chevaux-de-Frise; esentially a barrier that would keep warships from moving upriver.
General Washington commissioned him as geographer and surveyor-general of the United Colonies on 27 July 1777. Following his appointment, Erskine drew upwards of 275 maps covering the northern sector of the war. His maps of the region, showing roads, buildings, and other details, were of much use to Gen. Washington and remain historically valuable.
Membership categoryFellow
Date of election31/01/1771
Age at election36
RelationshipsMarried Elizabeth in 1765; their fashionable comfortable home was in Scotland Yard in Whitehall.
General contextOn 14 May 1765 Erskine recorded the results of experiments with his 'Centrifugal Hydraulilc Engine' . Then on 18 January 1766 he demonstrated his invention to a select group of VIPs on board HMS Princess Mary in Woolwich Dock, and confirmed by several noteworthy witnesses present, that Erskine's pump was almost thirty percent more efficient than the chain pump. The VIPs duly signed a statement of proof prepared by Erskine.

Erskine was invited to give a lecture nd demonstration of his Continual STream Pump at a meeting of the Royal Society held in Crane Court, Fleet STreet, London circa 1766.

Erskine went to Anerica in 1771 to manage the American Iron Company at Ringwood, in the Highland region of New Jersey, one of the largest iron mining and iron foundry business in thr Royal Colony of NEw #Jersey; and, owned by a London syndicate. P@rior to his departure for New York, Erskine visited ironworks in Wales, England, and Scotland during a strenuous three months on horseback, from September to November 1770, to gain hands-on experience meeting owners, managers and others, several of whom were elected FEllows of the Royal Society for their pioneering role during the Industrial Revolution - for example Dr George Fordyce, Matthew Boulton, John Wilkiinson, Dr John Roebuck, James watt, and Dr Benjamin Franklin., et al.

In July 1777, with the urgent approval of Congress in Philadelphia, General George Washington appointed Erskine the first Geographer and Surveyor-General of the Continental Army with the task of drawing maps of potential battle sites in the provinces of New York, Massachusetts, NEw Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginak. Erskine and his staff produced more than 200 maps, most of wh ich are preserved today in the archives of the New York Historical Society.

Whiel surveying the Hudson River area for suitable sites for fortificatikon, Erskine caught opneumonia and died at Ringwood Manor on 2 OCtober 1780, aged 46. Washington attended hsi funeral. He stayed at Ringwood Manor on two occasions previously as the guest of Elizabeth and Robert Erskine. Their home was halfway between West Point and Morristown NewJersey.
Bulloch's Roll; DAB
Albert H Heusser edited with introductin by Hubert G Schmidt ' George Washington's Mapmaker, a Biography of Robert Erskine' Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Herseym USA 1966
Royal Society codeNA981
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
EC/1770/16Erskine, Robert: certificate of election to the Royal Society
MS/391/137Bond of Robert Erskine to the Treasurer of the Royal Society4 February 1771
L&P/4/243Paper, 'Of a centrifugal engine for raising water' by Robert Erskine1765
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