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"I can't tell whether or not there's going to be a Singularity. I don't really believe the rapture of the nerds stereotype..."
- Charles Stross

Marine Spider (Hydrofoil)  
  A very early mention of the hydrofoil concept.  

The next improvement in sea travelling was the `marine spider.' As the name shows, this is built on the principle of an insect. It is well known that a body can be carried over the water much faster than through it. With this in mind, builders at first constructed light framework decks on large water-tight wheels or drums, having paddles on their circumferences to provide a hold on the water. These they caused to revolve by means of machinery on the deck, but soon found that the resistance offered to the barrel wheels themselves was too great. They therefore made them more like centipeds with large, bell-shaped feet, connected with a superstructural deck by ankle-jointed pipes, through which, when necessary, a pressure of air can be forced down upon the enclosed surface of water. Ordinarily, however, they go at great speed without this, the weight of the water displaced by the bell feet being as great as that resting upon them. Thus they swing along like a pacing horse, except that there are four rows of feet instead of two, each foot being taken out of the water as it is swung forward, the first and fourth and second and third rows being worked together. Although, on account of their size, which covers several acres, they can go in any water, they give the best results on Mediterraneans and lakes that are free from ocean rollers, and, under favourable conditions, make better speed than the nineteenth-century express trains, and, of course, going straight as the crow flies, and without stopping, they reach a destination in considerably shorter time.
From A Journey In Other Worlds, by John Jacob Astor IV.
Published by D. Appleton and Co. in 1894
Additional resources -

Hydrofoil Boats were co-invented by Alexander Graham Bell & Casey Baldwin in 1908. The American Department of War had called for proposals to build submarine chasers in the form of motorboats. Bell argued that a hydrofoil was the better choice, it could skim over a mine-infested bay in the same way that a skitterbug moves across a pond.

Enrico Forlanini, was an Italian engineer whose interests included airships, aircraft and helicopters. His hydrofoil developments started in 1898 with a series of model tests from which he arrived at several simple mathematical relationships. These allowed him to proceed with the design and construction of a full scale craft.

Forlanini's designs were characterized by a "ladder" foil system. You can see from a drawing of his concept and a copy of an old photograph what is meant by this aptly named ladder foil. Forlanini's model experiments had shown him that lift was proportional to the square of speed, therefore less foil area was required as speed increased. He conveniently obtained this decrease in foil area with the ladder scheme. The craft weighed about 2,650 pounds and had a 60 hp engine driving contrarotating airscrews. Although designed to fly at a speed of 56 mph, records, according to Leslie Hayward, show that during tests on Lake Maggiore, Italy in 1906 a speed of 42.5 mph was obtained.

The first evidence of the use of hydrofoils on a boat or ship was in a British patent of 1869. It was granted to Emmanuel Denis Farcot, a Parisian, who claimed that "adapting to the sides and bottom of the vessel a series or inclined planes or wedge formed pieces, which as the vessel is driven forward will have the effect of lifting it in the water and reducing the draught."

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from A Journey In Other Worlds
  More Ideas and Technology by John Jacob Astor IV
  Tech news articles related to A Journey In Other Worlds
  Tech news articles related to works by John Jacob Astor IV

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