George Stephenson is a man often overlooked as a hero - not just of Britain, but of the British working class. Born into a hard working, but far from wealthy family - Stephenson's father worked in a coal mine as an engine man - Stephenson overcame a lack of education to become a mechanical engineer and gain fame as "the father of railways".
Having started work at the age of eight, Stephenson quickly became interested in mechanics and engineering and realised that his lack of numeracy and literacy skills were an impediment to his ambitions. He attended night school while working at the same colliery as his father and his knowledge and abilities increased.
Despite being known as the "father of the railways" Stephenson is probably neither the most important nor the most innovative of the early pioneers of rail but he is a perfect study in what was the working class work ethic. A man who never allowed the lack of privilege or education to be a handicap, but who believed that responsibility for improving oneself and one's position was primarily in his own hands.