Stirling was born at Cloag Farm near Methven, Perthshire, the third of eight children. He inherited his father's interest in engineering, but studied divinity at theUniversity of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow becoming a minister of the Church of Scotland as second charge of the Laigh Kirk of Kilmarnock in 1816.
In 1819 Stirling married Jean Rankin.They had seven children, including the locomotive engineers Patrick Stirling and James Stirling.
Stirling died in Galston, East Ayrshire in 1878.
Engineering and science
Hot air engine
Heinvented what he called the Heat Economiser (now generally known as the regenerator), a device for improving the thermal efficiency of a variety of processes, obtaining a patent for the economiser andan engine incorporating it in 1816. Stirling's engine could not explode, because it worked at a lower pressure, and could not cause steam burns. In 1818 he built the first practical version of hisengine, used to pump water from a quarry.
The theoretical basis of Stirling's engine, the Stirling cycle, would not be fully understood until the work of Sadi Carnot (1796 – 1832).
While in Kilmarnock, he collaborated with another inventor, Thomas Morton, who provided workshop facilities for Stirling's research. Both men were interested in astronomy, and having learnt fromMorton how to grind lenses, Stirling invented several optical instruments.
Robert, together with his brother James an engineer, took out several further patents for improvements to theair engine and in the 1840s James built a large air engine driving all the machinery at his Dundee Foundry Company.
In a letter of 1876, Robert Stirling acknowledged theimportance of Henry Bessemer's new invention – the Bessemer process for the manufacture of steel – which made steam engines safer and threatened to make the air engine obsolete. However, he also expressed...