Robert Gilmour LeTourneau (November 30, 1888 – June 1, 1969), was born in Richford, Vermont, and was a prolific inventor of earthmoving machinery. His machines represented nearly 70 percent of the earthmoving equipment and engineering vehicles used during World War II, and over the course of his life he secured nearly 300 patents.
He designed and built machines beyond the imagination of ordinary men. He introduced into the earthmoving and material handling industry the rubber tire, which today is almost universally accepted. He invented and developed the Electric Wheel. He pioneered the welding of various metals. His huge mobile offshore drilling platforms are supporting the machines that drill for the rich petroleum reserves under the seas around the world.
Some of the innovations credited to LeTourneau include the use of rubber tyres in earthmoving, numerous improvements relating to scrapers and the development of low pressure heavy-duty rubber tyres, among others.
LeTourneau sold his earthmoving equipment line to Westinghouse Air Brake Company in 1953 to focus on development of the electric wheel drive concept. Following research and development of this concept, LeTourneau re-entered the earthmoving market in 1958 - at the age of 70 - with machines based on his new system.
In 1953, LeTourneau took a sabbatical from earthmoving equipment and sold his complete line to Westinghouse Air Brake Company. He then devoted his time to developing the concept of the electric wheel drive. He returned to his love of the earthmoving industry in 1958. Coupling the electric wheel drive system (wheel hub motor) into the heavy-duty equipment, LeTourneau offered contractors a new variety of machines.