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Industrial Biography by Samuel Smiles

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lathe, and turned out much beautiful screen and stall work, still to
be seen in our cathedrals, as well as twisted and swash-work for the
balusters of staircases and other ornamental purposes. English
mechanics seem early to have distinguished themselves as improvers of
the lathe; and in Moxon's 'Treatise on Turning,' published in 1680,
we find Mr. Thomas Oldfield, at the sign of the Flower-de-Luce, near
the Savoy in the Strand, named as an excellent maker of oval-engines
and swash-engines, showing that such machines were then in some
demand. The French writer Plumier*
PLUMIER, L'Art de Tourner, Paris, 1754, p. 155. ...]
also mentions an ingenious modification of the lathe by means of
which any kind of reticulated form could be given to the work; and,
from it's being employed to ornament the handles of knives, it was
called by him the "Machine a manche de Couteau d'Angleterre." But
the French artisans were at that time much better skilled than the
English in the use of tools, and it is most probable that we owe to
the Flemish and French Protestant workmen who flocked into England in
such large numbers during the religious persecutions of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, the improvement, if not the introduction,
of the art of turning, as well as many other arts hereafter to be
referred to. It is certain that at the period to which we refer
numerous treatises were published in France on the art of turning,
some of them of a most elaborate character. Such were the works of
De la Hire,*
Machines approuvees par l' Academie, 1719.
who described how every kind of polygon might be made by the lathe;
De la Condamine,*
Machines approuvees par l' Academie, 1733.
who showed how a lathe could turn all sorts of irregular figures by
means of tracers; and of Grand Jean, Morin,*
L'Art de Tourner en perfection, 49.
Plumier, Bergeron, and many other writers.

The work of Plumier is especially elaborate, entering into the
construction of the lathe in its various parts, the making of the
tools and cutters, and the different motions to be given to the
machine by means of wheels, eccentrics, and other expedients, amongst
which may be mentioned one very much resembling the slide rest and
planing-machine combined.*
It consisted of two parallel bars of wood or iron connected together
at both extremities by bolts or keys of sufficient width to admit of
the article required to be planed. A moveable frame was placed
between the two bars, motion being given to it by a long cylindrical
thread acting on any tool put into the sliding frame, and,
consequently, causing the screw, by means of a handle at each end of
it, to push or draw the point or cutting-edge of the tool either
way.--Mr. George Rennie's Preface to Buchanan's Practical Essays on
Mill Work, 3rd Ed. xli.
From this work it appears that turning had long been a favourite
pursuit in France with amateurs of all ranks, who spared no expense
in the contrivance and perfection of elaborate machinery for the
production of complex figures.*
Turning was a favourite amusement amongst the French nobles of last
century, many of whom acquired great dexterity in the art, which they
turned to account when compelled to emigrate at the Revolution. Louis
XVI. himself was a very good locksmith, and could have earned a fair
living at the trade. Our own George III. was a good turner, and was
learned in wheels and treadles, chucks and chisels. Henry Mayhew
says, on the authority of an old working turner, that, with average
industry, the King might have made from 40s. to 50s. a-week as a hard
wood and ivory turner. Lord John Hay, though one-armed, was an adept
at the latter, and Lord Gray was another capital turner. Indeed the
late Mr. Holtzapffel's elaborately illustrated treatise was written
quite as much for amateurs as for working mechanics. Among other
noble handicraftsmen we may mention the late Lord Douglas, who
cultivated bookbinding. Lord Traquair's fancy was cutlery, and one
could not come to him in a more welcome fashion than with a pair of
old razors to set up.
There was at that time a great passion for automata in France, which
gave rise to many highly ingenious devices, such as Camus's miniature
carriage (made for Louis XIV. when a child), Degennes' mechanical
peacock, Vancanson's duck, and Maillardet's conjuror. It had the
effect of introducing among the higher order of artists habits of
nice and accurate workmanship in executing delicate pieces of
machinery; and the same combination of mechanical powers which made
the steel spider crawl, the duck quack, or waved the tiny rod of the
magician, contributed in future years to purposes of higher
import,--the wheels and pinions, which in these automata almost
eluded the human senses by their minuteness, reappearing in modern
times in the stupendous mechanism of our self-acting lathes,
spinning-mules, and steam-engines.

"In our own country," says Professor Willis, "the literature of this
subject is so defective that it is very difficult to discover what
progress we were making during the seventeenth and eighteenth
Professor WILLIS, Lectures on the Results of the Great Exhibition of
1851, lst series, p. 306.
We believe the fact to be, that the progress made in England down to
the end of last century had been very small indeed, and that the
lathe had experienced little or no improvement until Maudslay took it
in hand. Nothing seems to have been known of the slide rest until he
re-invented it and applied it to the production of machinery of a far
more elaborate character than had ever before been contemplated as
possible. Professor Willis says that Bramah's, in other words
Maudslay's, slide rest of 1794 is so different from that described in
the French 'Encyclopedie in 1772, that the two could not have had a
common origin. We are therefore led to the conclusion that Maudslay's
invention was entirely independent of all that had gone before, and
that he contrived it for the special purpose of overcoming the
difficulties which he himself experienced in turning out duplicate
parts in large numbers. At all events, he was so early and zealous a
promoter of its use, that we think he may, in the eyes of all
practical mechanics, stand as the parent of its introduction to the
workshops of England.

It is unquestionable that at the time when Maudslay began the
improvement of machine-tools, the methods of working in wood and
metals were exceedingly imperfect. Mr. William Fairbairn has stated
that when he first became acquainted with mechanical engineering,
about sixty years ago, there were no self-acting tools; everything
was executed by hand. There were neither planing, slotting, nor
shaping machines; and the whole stock of an engineering or machine
establishment might be summed up in a few ill-constructed lathes, and
a few drills and boring machines of rude construction.*
Address delivered before the British Association at Manchester in
1861; and Useful Information for Engineers, 1st series, p. 22.
Our mechanics were equally backward in contrivances for working in
wood. Thus, when Sir Samuel Bentham made a tour through the
manufacturing districts of England in 1791, he was surprised to find
how little had been done to substitute the invariable accuracy of
machinery for the uncertain dexterity of the human hand. Steam-power
was as yet only employed in driving spinning-machines, rolling
metals, pumping water, and such like purposes. In the working of wood
no machinery had been introduced beyond the common turning-lathe and
some saws, and a few boring tools used in making blocks for the navy.
Even saws worked by inanimate force for slitting timber, though in
extensive use in foreign countries, were nowhere to be found in Great
Life of Sir Samuel Bentham, 97-8.
As everything depended on the dexterity of hand and correctness of
eye of the workmen, the work turned out was of very unequal merit,
besides being exceedingly costly. Even in the construction of
comparatively simple machines, the expense was so great as to present
a formidable obstacle to their introduction and extensive use; and
but for the invention of machine-making tools, the use of the
steam-engine in the various forms in which it is now applied for the
production of power could never have become general.

In turning a piece of work on the old-fashioned lathe, the workman
applied and guided his tool by means of muscular strength. The work
was made to revolve, and the turner, holding the cutting tool firmly
upon the long, straight, guiding edge of the rest, along which he
carried it, and pressing its point firmly against the article to be
turned, was thus enabled to reduce its surface to the required size
and shape. Some dexterous turners were able, with practice and
carefulness, to execute very clever pieces of work by this simple
means. But when the article to be turned was of considerable size,
and especially when it was of metal, the expenditure of muscular
strength was so great that the workman soon became exhausted. The
slightest variation in the pressure of the tool led to an
irregularity of surface; and with the utmost care on the workman's
part, he could not avoid occasionally cutting a little too deep, in
consequence of which he must necessarily go over the surface again,
to reduce the whole to the level of that accidentally cut too deep;
and thus possibly the job would be altogether spoiled by the diameter
of the article under operation being made too small for its intended

The introduction of the slide rest furnished a complete remedy for
this source of imperfection. The principle of the invention consists
in constructing and fitting the rest so that, instead of being
screwed down to one place, and the tool in the hands of the workman
travelling over it, the rest shall itself hold the cutting tool
firmly fixed in it, and slide along the surface of the bench in a
direction exactly parallel with the axis of the work. Before its
invention various methods had been tried with the object of enabling
the work to be turned true independent of the dexterity of the
workman. Thus, a square steel cutter used to be firmly fixed in a
bed, along which it was wedged from point to point of the work, and
tolerable accuracy was in this way secured. But the slide rest was
much more easily managed, and the result was much more satisfactory.
All that the workman had to do, after the tool was firmly fitted into
the rest, was merely to turn a screw-handle, and thus advance the
cutter along the face of the work as required, with an expenditure of
strength so slight as scarcely to be appreciable. And even this
labour has now been got rid of; for, by an arrangement of the
gearing, the slide itself has been made self-acting, and advances
with the revolution of the work in the lathe, which thus supplies the
place of the workman's hand. The accuracy of the turning done by this
beautiful yet simple arrangement is as mechanically perfect as work
can be. The pair of steel fingers which hold the cutting tool firmly
in their grasp never tire, and it moves along the metal to be cut
with an accuracy and precision which the human hand, however skilled,
could never equal.

The effects of the introduction of the slide rest were very shortly
felt in all departments of mechanism. Though it had to encounter some
of the ridicule with which new methods of working are usually
received, and for a time was spoken of in derision as "Maudslay's
Go-cart,"--its practical advantages were so decided that it gradually
made its way, and became an established tool in all the best
mechanical workshops. It was found alike capable of executing the
most delicate and the most ponderous pieces of machinery; and as
slide-lathes could be manufactured to any extent, machinery,
steam-engines, and all kinds of metal work could now be turned out in
a quantity and at a price that, but for its use, could never have
been practicable. In course of time various modifications of the
machine were introduced--such as the planing machine, the
wheel-cutting machine, and other beautiful tools on the slide-rest
principle,--the result of which has been that extraordinary
development of mechanical production and power which is so
characteristic a feature of the age we live in.

"It is not, indeed, saying at all too much to state," says Mr.
Remarks on the Introduction of the Slide Principle in Tools and
Machines employed in the Production of Machinery, in Buchanan's
Practical Essays on Mill Work and other Machinery. 3rd ed. p. 397.
a most competent judge in such a matter, "that its influence in
improving and extending the use of machinery has been as great as
that produced by the improvement of the steam-engine in respect to
perfecting manufactures and extending commerce, inasmuch as without
the aid of the vast accession to our power of producing perfect
mechanism which it at once supplied, we could never have worked out
into practical and profitable forms the conceptions of those master
minds who, during the last half century, have so successfully
pioneered the way for mankind. The steam-engine itself, which
supplies us with such unbounded power, owes its present perfection to
this most admirable means of giving to metallic objects the most
precise and perfect geometrical forms. How could we, for instance,
have good steam-engines if we had not the means of boring out a true
cylinder, or turning a true piston-rod, or planing a valve face? It
is this alone which has furnished us with the means of carrying into
practice the accumulated result's of scientific investigation on
mechanical subjects. It would be blamable indeed," continues Mr.
Nasmyth, "after having endeavoured to set forth the vast advantages
which have been conferred on the mechanical world, and therefore on
mankind generally, by the invention and introduction of the Slide
Rest, were I to suppress the name of that admirable individual to
whom we are indebted for this powerful agent towards the attainment
of mechanical perfection. I allude to Henry Maudslay, whose useful
life was enthusiastically devoted to the grand object of improving
our means of producing perfect workmanship and machinery: to him we
are certainly indebted for the slide rest, and, consequently, to say
the least, we are indirectly so for the vast benefits which have
resulted from the introduction of so powerful an agent in perfecting
our machinery and mechanism generally. The indefatigable care which
he took in inculcating and diffusing among his workmen, and
mechanical men generally, sound ideas of practical knowledge and
refined views of construction, have rendered and ever will continue
to render his name identified with all that is noble in the ambition
of a lover of mechanical perfection."

One of the first uses to which Mr. Maudslay applied the improved
slide rest, which he perfected shortly after beginning business in
Margaret Street, Cavendish Square, was in executing the requisite
tools and machinery required by Mr. (afterwards Sir Marc Isambard)
Brunel for manufacturing ships' blocks. The career of Brunel was of a
more romantic character than falls to the ordinary lot of mechanical
engineers. His father was a small farmer and postmaster, at the
village of Hacqueville, in Normandy, where Marc Isambard was born in
1769. He was early intended for a priest, and educated accordingly.
But he was much fonder of the carpenter's shop than of the school;
and coaxing, entreaty, and punishment alike failed in making a
hopeful scholar of him. He drew faces and plans until his father was
almost in despair. Sent to school at Rouen, his chief pleasure was in
watching the ships along the quays; and one day his curiosity was
excited by the sight of some large iron castings just landed. What
were they? How had they been made? Where did they come from? His
eager inquiries were soon answered. They were parts of an engine
intended for the great Paris water-works; the engine was to pump
water by the power of steam; and the castings had been made in
England, and had just been landed from an English ship. "England!"
exclaimed the boy, "ah! when I am a man I will go see the country
where such grand machines are made!" On one occasion, seeing a new
tool in a cutler's window, he coveted it so much that he pawned his
hat to possess it. This was not the right road to the priesthood; and
his father soon saw that it was of no use urging him further: but the
boy's instinct proved truer than the father's judgment.

It was eventually determined that he should qualify himself to enter
the royal navy, and at seventeen he was nominated to serve in a
corvette as "volontaire d'honneur." His ship was paid off in 1792,
and he was at Paris during the trial of the King. With the
incautiousness of youth he openly avowed his royalist opinions in the
cafe which he frequented. On the very day that Louis was condemned
to death, Brunel had an angry altercation with some
ultra-republicans, after which he called to his dog, "Viens,
citoyen!" Scowling looks were turned upon him, and he deemed it
expedient to take the first opportunity of escaping from the house,
which he did by a back-door, and made the best of his way to
Hacqueville. From thence he went to Rouen, and succeeded in finding a
passage on board an American ship, in which he sailed for New York,
having first pledged his affections to an English girl, Sophia
Kingdom, whom he had accidentally met at the house of Mr. Carpentier,
the American consul at Rouen.

Arrived in America, he succeeded in finding employment as assistant
surveyor of a tract of land along the Black River, near Lake Ontario.
In the intervals of his labours he made occasional visits to New
York, and it was there that the first idea of his block-machinery
occurred to him. He carried his idea back with him into the woods,
where it often mingled with his thoughts of Sophia Kingdom, by this
time safe in England after passing through the horrors of a French
prison. "My first thought of the block-machinery," he once said, "was
at a dinner party at Major-General Hamilton's, in New York; my second
under an American tree, when, one day that I was carving letters on
its bark, the turn of one of them reminded me of it, and I thought,
'Ah! my block! so it must be.' And what do you think. were the
letters I was cutting? Of course none other than S. K." Brunel
subsequently obtained some employment as an architect in New York,
and promulgated various plans for improving the navigation of the
principal rivers. Among the designs of his which were carried out,
was that of the Park Theatre at New York, and a cannon foundry, in
which he introduced improvements in casting and boring big guns. But
being badly paid for his work, and a powerful attraction drawing him
constantly towards England, he determined to take final leave of
America, which he did in 1799, and landed at Falmouth in the
following March. There he again met Miss Kingdom, who had remained
faithful to him during his six long years of exile, and the pair were
shortly after united for life.

Brunel was a prolific inventor. During his residence in America, he
had planned many contrivances in his mind, which he now proceeded to
work out. The first was a duplicate writing and drawing machine,
which he patented. The next was a machine for twisting cotton thread
and forming it into balls; but omitting to protect it by a patent, he
derived no benefit from the invention, though it shortly came into
very general use. He then invented a machine for trimmings and
borders for muslins, lawns, and cambrics,--of the nature of a sewing
machine. His famous block-machinery formed the subject of his next

It may be explained that the making of the blocks employed in the
rigging of ships for raising and lowering the sails, masts, and
yards, was then a highly important branch of manufacture. Some idea
may be formed of the number used in the Royal Navy alone, from the
fact that a 74-gun ship required to be provided with no fewer than
1400 blocks of various sizes. The sheaved blocks used for the running
rigging consisted of the shell, the sheaves, which revolved within
the shell, and the pins which fastened them together. The fabrication
of these articles, though apparently simple, was in reality attended
with much difficulty. Every part had to be fashioned with great
accuracy and precision to ensure the easy working of the block when
put together, as any hitch in the raising or lowering of the sails
might, on certain emergencies, occasion a serious disaster. Indeed,
it became clear that mere hand-work was not to be relied on in the
manufacture of these articles, and efforts were early made to produce
them by means of machinery of the most perfect kind that could be
devised. In 1781, Mr. Taylor, of Southampton, set up a large
establishment on the river Itchen for their manufacture; and on the
expiry of his contract, the Government determined to establish works
of their own in Portsmouth Dockyard, for the purpose at the same time
of securing greater economy, and of being independent of individual
makers in the supply of an article of such importance in the
equipment of ships.

Sir Samuel Bentham, who then filled the office of Inspector-General
of Naval Works, was a highly ingenious person, and had for some years
been applying his mind to the invention of improved machinery for
working in wood. He had succeeded in introducing into the royal
dockyards sawing-machines and planing-machines of a superior kind, as
well as block-making machines. Thus the specification of one of his
patents, taken out in 1793, clearly describes a machine for shaping
the shells of the blocks, in a manner similar to that afterwards
specified by Brunel. Bentham had even proceeded with the erection of
a building in Portsmouth Dockyard for the manufacture of the blocks
after his method, the necessary steam-engine being already provided;
but with a singular degree of candour and generosity, on Brunel's
method being submitted to him, Sir Samuel at once acknowledged its
superiority to his own, and promised to recommend its adoption by the
authorities in his department.

The circumstance of Mrs. Brunel's brother being Under-Secretary to
the Navy Board at the time, probably led Brunel in the first instance
to offer his invention to the Admiralty. A great deal, however,
remained to be done before he could bring his ideas of the
block-machinery into a definite shape; for there is usually a wide
interval between the first conception of an intricate machine and its
practical realization. Though Brunel had a good knowledge of
mechanics, and was able to master the intricacies of any machine, he
laboured under the disadvantage of not being a practical mechanic and
it is probable that but for the help of someone possessed of this
important qualification, his invention, ingenious and important
though it was, would have borne no practical fruits. It was at this
juncture that he was so fortunate as to be introduced to Henry
Maudslay, the inventor of the sliderest.

It happened that a M. de Bacquancourt, one of the French emigres,
of whom there were then so many in London, was accustomed almost
daily to pass Maudslay's little shop in Wells-street, and being
himself an amateur turner, he curiously inspected the articles from
time to time exhibited in the window of the young mechanic. One day a
more than ordinarily nice piece of screw-cutting made its appearance,
on which he entered the shop to make inquiries as to the method by
which it had been executed. He had a long conversation with Maudslay,
with whom he was greatly pleased; and he was afterwards accustomed to
look in upon him occasionally to see what new work was going on.
Bacquancourt was also on intimate terms with Brunel, who communicated
to him the difficulty he had experienced in finding a mechanic of
sufficient dexterity to execute his design of the block-making
machinery. It immediately occurred to the former that Henry Maudslay
was the very man to execute work of the elaborate character proposed,
and he described to Brunel the new and beautiful tools which Maudslay
had contrived for the purpose of ensuring accuracy and finish. Brunel
at once determined to call upon Maudslay, and it was arranged that
Bacquancourt should introduce him, which he did, and after the
interview which took place Brunel promised to call again with the
drawings of his proposed model.

A few days passed, and Brunel called with the first drawing, done by
himself; for he was a capital draughtsman, and used to speak of
drawing as the "alphabet of the engineer." The drawing only showed a
little bit of the intended machine, and Brunel did not yet think it
advisable to communicate to Maudslay the precise object he had in
view; for inventors are usually very chary of explaining their
schemes to others, for fear of being anticipated. Again Brunel
appeared at Maudslay's shop with a further drawing, still not
explaining his design; but at the third visit, immediately on looking
at the fresh drawings he had brought, Maudslay exclaimed, "Ah! now I
see what you are thinking of; you want machinery for making blocks."
At this Brunel became more communicative, and explained his designs
to the mechanic, who fully entered into his views, and went on from
that time forward striving to his utmost to work out the inventor's
conceptions and embody them in a practical machine.

While still occupied on the models, which were begun in 1800,
Maudslay removed his shop from Wells-street, where he was assisted by
a single journeyman, to Margaret-street, Cavendish-square, where he
had greater room for carrying on his trade, and was also enabled to
increase the number of his hands. The working models were ready for
inspection by Sir Samuel Bentham and the Lords of the Admiralty in
1801, and having been fully approved by them, Brunel was authorized
to proceed with the execution of the requisite machinery for the
manufacture of the ship's blocks required for the Royal Navy. The
whole of this machinery was executed by Henry Maudslay; it occupied
him very fully for nearly six years, so that the manufacture of
blocks by the new process was not begun until September, 1808.

We despair of being able to give any adequate description in words of
the intricate arrangements and mode of action of the block-making
machinery. Let any one attempt to describe the much more simple and
familiar process by which a shoemaker makes a pair of shoes, and he
will find how inadequate mere words are to describe any mechanical
So far as words and drawings can serve to describe the block-making
machinery, it will be found very ably described by Mr. Farey in his
article under this head in Rees's Cyclopaedia, and by Dr. Brewster in
the Edinburgh Cyclopaedia. A very good account will also be found in
Tomlinson's Cyclopaedia of the Useful Arts, Art. "Block."
Suffice it to say, that the machinery was of the most beautiful
manufacture and finish, and even at this day will bear comparison
with the most perfect machines which can be turned out with all the
improved appliances of modern tools. The framing was of cast-iron,
while the parts exposed to violent and rapid action were all of the
best hardened steel. In turning out the various parts, Maudslay found
his slide rest of indispensable value. Indeed, without this
contrivance, it is doubtful whether machinery of so delicate and
intricate a character could possibly have been executed. There was
not one, but many machines in the series, each devoted to a special
operation in the formation of a block. Thus there were various
sawing-machines,--the Straight Cross-Cutting Saw, the Circular
Cross-Cutting Saw, the Reciprocating Ripping-saw, and the Circular
Ripping-Saw. Then there were the Boring Machines, and the Mortising
Machine, of beautiful construction, for cutting the sheave-holes,
furnished with numerous chisels, each making from 110 to 150 strokes
a minute, and cutting at every stroke a chip as thick as pasteboard
with the utmost precision. In addition to these were the Corner-Saw
for cutting off the corners of the block, the Shaping Machine for
accurately forming the outside surfaces, the Scoring Engine for
cutting the groove round the longest diameter of the block for the
reception of the rope, and various other machines for drilling,
riveting, and finishing the blocks, besides those for making the

The total number of machines employed in the various operations of
making a ship's block by the new method was forty-four; and after
being regularly employed in Portsmouth Dockyard for upwards of fifty
years, they are still as perfect in their action as on the day they
were erected. They constitute one of the most ingenious and complete
collections of tools ever invented for making articles in wood, being
capable of performing most of the practical operations of carpentry
with the utmost accuracy and finish. The machines are worked by a
steam-engine of 32-horse power, which is also used for various other
dockyard purposes. Under the new system of block-making it was found
that the articles were better made, supplied with much greater
rapidity, and executed at a greatly reduced cost. Only ten men, with
the new machinery, could perform the work which before had required a
hundred and ten men to execute, and not fewer than 160,000 blocks of
various kinds and sizes could be turned out in a year, worth not less
than 541,000L.*
The remuneration paid to Mr. Brunel for his share in the invention
was only one year's savings, which, however, were estimated by Sir
Samuel Bentham at 17,663l.; besides which a grant of 5000L. was
afterwards made to Brunel when labouring under pecuniary
difficulties. But the ANNUAL saving to the nation by the adoption of
the block-making machinery was probably more than the entire sum paid
to the engineer. Brunel afterwards invented other wood-working
machinery, but none to compare in merit and excellence with the
above, For further particulars of his career, see BEAMISH'S Memoirs
of Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, C.E. London. 1862. ...]

The satisfactory execution of the block-machinery brought Maudslay a
large accession of fame and business; and the premises in Margaret
Street proving much too limited for his requirements, he again
resolved to shift his quarters. He found a piece of ground suitable
for his purpose in Westminster Road, Lambeth. Little more than a
century since it formed part of a Marsh, the name of which is still
retained in the adjoining street; its principal productions being
bulrushes and willows, which were haunted in certain seasons by snipe
and waterfowl. An enterprising riding-master had erected some
premises on a part of the marsh, which he used for a riding-school;
but the speculation not answering, they were sold, and Henry Maudslay
became the proprietor. Hither he removed his machinery from Margaret
Street in 1810, adding fresh plant from time to time as it was
required; and with the aid of his late excellent partner he built up
the far-famed establishment of Maudslay, Field, and Co. There he went
on improving his old tools and inventing new ones, as the necessity
for them arose, until the original slide-lathes used for making the
block-machinery became thrown into the shade by the comparatively
gigantic machine-tools of the modern school. Yet the original lathes
are still to be found in the collection of the firm in Westminster
Road, and continue to do their daily quota of work with the same
precision as they did when turned out of the hands of their inventor
and maker some sixty years ago.

It is unnecessary that we should describe in any great detail the
further career of Henry Maudslay. The rest of his life was full of
useful and profitable work to others as well as to himself. His
business embraced the making of flour and saw mills, mint machinery,
and steam-engines of all kinds. Before he left Margaret Street, in
1807, he took out a patent for improvements in the steam-engine, by
which he much simplified its parts, and secured greater directness of
action. His new engine was called the Pyramidal, because of its form,
and was the first move towards what are now called Direct-acting
Engines, in which the lateral movement of the piston is communicated
by connecting-rods to the rotatory movement of the crank-shaft. Mr.
Nasmyth says of it, that "on account of its great simplicity and
GET-AT-ABILITY of parts, its compactness and self-contained
steadiness, this engine has been the parent of a vast progeny, all
more or less marked by the distinguishing features of the original
design, which is still in as high favour as ever." Mr. Maudslay also
directed his attention in like manner to the improvement of the
marine engine, which he made so simple and effective as to become in
a great measure the type of its class; and it has held its ground
almost unchanged for nearly thirty years. The 'Regent,' which was the
first steamboat that plied between London and Margate, was fitted
with engines by Maudslay in 1816; and it proved the forerunner of a
vast number of marine engines, the manufacture of which soon became
one of the most important branches of mechanical engineering.

Another of Mr. Maudslay's inventions was his machine for punching
boiler-plates, by which the production of ironwork of many kinds was
greatly facilitated. This improvement originated in the contract
which he held for some years for supplying the Royal Navy with iron
plates for ships' tanks. The operations of shearing and punching had
before been very imperfectly done by hand, with great expenditure of
labour. To improve the style of the work and lessen the labour,
Maudslay invented the machine now in general use, by which the holes
punched in the iron plate are exactly equidistant, and the subsequent
operation of riveting is greatly facilitated. One of the results of
the improved method was the great saving which was at once effected
in the cost of preparing the plates to receive the rivets, the price
of which was reduced from seven shillings per tank to ninepence. He
continued to devote himself to the last to the improvement of the
lathe,--in his opinion the master-machine, the life and soul of
engine-turning, of which the planing, screw-cutting, and other
machines in common use, are but modifications. In one of the early
lathes which he contrived and made, the mandrill was nine inches in
diameter; it was driven by wheel-gearing like a crane motion, and
adapted to different speeds. Some of his friends, on first looking at
it, said he was going "too fast;" but he lived to see work projected
on so large a scale as to prove that his conceptions were just, and
that he had merely anticipated by a few years the mechanical progress
of his time. His large removable bar-lathe was a highly important
tool of the same kind. It was used to turn surfaces many feet in
diameter. While it could be used for boring wheels, or the side-rods
of marine engines, it could turn a roller or cylinder twice or three
times the diameter of its own centres from the ground-level, and
indeed could drive round work of any diameter that would clear the
roof of the shop. This was therefore an almost universal tool,
capable of very extensive uses. Indeed much of the work now executed
by means of special tools, such as the planing or slotting machine,
was then done in the lathe, which was used as a cutter-shaping
machine, fitted with various appliances according to the work.

Maudslay's love of accuracy also led him from an early period to
study the subject of improved screw-cutting. The importance of this
department of mechanism can scarcely be overrated, the solidity and
permanency of most mechanical structures mainly depending on the
employment of the screw, at the same time that the parts can be
readily separated for renewal or repair. Any one can form an idea of
the importance of the screw as an element in mechanical construction
by examining say a steam-engine, and counting the number of screws
employed in holding it together. Previous to the time at which the
subject occupied the attention of our mechanic, the tools used for
making screws were of the most rude and inexact kind. The screws were
for the most part cut by hand: the small by filing, the larger by
chipping and filing. In consequence of the great difficulty of making
them, as few were used as possible; and cotters, cotterils, or
forelocks, were employed instead. Screws, however, were to a certain
extent indispensable; and each manufacturing establishment made them
after their own fashion. There was an utter want of uniformity. No
system was observed as to "pitch," i.e. the number of threads to the
inch, nor was any rule followed as to the form of those threads.
Every bolt and nut was sort of specialty in itself, and neither owed
nor admitted of any community with its neighbours. To such an extent
was this irregularity carried, that all bolts and their corresponding
nuts had to be marked as belonging to each other; and any mixing of
them together led to endless trouble, hopeless confusion, and
enormous expense. Indeed none but those who lived in the
comparatively early days of machine-manufacture can form an adequate
idea of the annoyance occasioned by the want of system in this branch
of detail, or duly appreciate the services rendered by Maudslay to
mechanical engineering by the practical measures which he was among
the first to introduce for its remedy. In his system of screw-cutting
machinery, his taps and dies, and screw-tackle generally, he laid the
foundations of all that has since been done in this essential branch
of machine-construction, in which he was so ably followed up by
several of the eminent mechanics brought up in his school, and more
especially by Joseph Clement and Joseph Whitworth. One of his
earliest self-acting screw lathes, moved by a guide-screw and wheels
after the plan followed by the latter engineer, cut screws of large
diameter and of any required pitch. As an illustration of its
completeness and accuracy, we may mention that by its means a screw
five feet in length, and two inches in diameter, was cut with fifty
threads to the inch; the nut to fit on to it being twelve inches
long, and containing six hundred threads. This screw was principally
used for dividing scales for astronomical purposes; and by its means
divisions were produced so minute that they could not be detected
without the aid of a magnifier. The screw, which was sent for
exhibition to the Society of Arts, is still carefully preserved
amongst the specimens of Maudslay's handicraft at the Lambeth Works,
and is a piece of delicate work which every skilled mechanic will
thoroughly appreciate. Yet the tool by which this fine piece of
turning was produced was not an exceptional tool, but was daily
employed in the ordinary work of the manufactory.

Like every good workman who takes pride in his craft, he kept his
tools in first-rate order, clean, and tidily arranged, so that he
could lay his hand upon the thing he wanted at once, without loss of
time. They are still preserved in the state in which he left them,
and strikingly illustrate his love of order, "nattiness," and
dexterity. Mr. Nasmyth says of him that you could see the man's
character in whatever work he turned out; and as the connoisseur in
art will exclaim at sight of a picture, " That is Turner," or "That
is Stansfield," detecting the hand of the master in it, so the
experienced mechanician, at sight of one of his machines or engines,
will be equally ready to exclaim, "That is Maudslay;" for the
characteristic style of the master-mind is as clear to the
experienced eye in the case of the finished machine as the touches of
the artist's pencil are in the case of the finished picture. Every
mechanical contrivance that became the subject of his study came
forth from his hand and mind rearranged, simplified, and made new,
with the impress of his individuality stamped upon it. He at once
stripped the subject of all unnecessary complications; for he
possessed a wonderful faculty of KNOWING WHAT TO DO WITHOUT--the
result of his clearness of insight into mechanical adaptations, and
the accurate and well-defined notions he had formed of the precise
object to be accomplished. "Every member or separate machine in the
system of block-machinery says Mr. Nasmyth, "is full of Maudslay's
presence; and in that machinery, as constructed by him, is to be
found the parent of every engineering tool by the aid of which we are
now achieving such great things in mechanical construction. To the
tools of which Maudslay furnished the prototypes are we mainly
indebted for the perfection of our textile machinery, our
locomotives, our marine engines, and the various implements of art,
of agriculture, and of war. If any one who can enter into the details
of this subject will be at the pains to analyse, if I may so term it,
the machinery of our modern engineering workshops, he will find in
all of them the strongly-marked features of Maudslay's parent
machine, the slide rest and slide system--whether it be a planing
machine, a slotting machine, a slide-lathe, or any other of the
wonderful tools which are now enabling us to accomplish so much in

One of the things in which Mr. Maudslay took just pride was in the
excellence of his work. In designing and executing it, his main
object was to do it in the best possible style and finish, altogether
irrespective of the probable pecuniary results. This he regarded in
the light of a duty he could not and would not evade, independent of
its being a good investment for securing a future reputation; and the
character which he thus obtained, although at times purchased at
great cost, eventually justified the soundness of his views. As the
eminent Mr. Penn, the head of the great engineering firm, is
accustomed to say, "I cannot afford to turn out second-rate work," so
Mr. Maudslay found both character and profit in striving after the
highest excellence in his productions. He was particular even in the
minutest details. Thus one of the points on which he
insisted--apparently a trivial matter, but in reality of considerable
importance in mechanical construction-- was the avoidance of sharp
interior angles in ironwork, whether wrought or cast; for he found
that in such interior angles cracks were apt to originate; and when
the article was a tool, the sharp angle was less pleasant to the hand
as well as to the eye. In the application of his favourite round or
hollow corner system--as, for instance, in the case of the points of
junction of the arms of a wheel with its centre and rim--he used to
illustrate its superiority by holding up his hand and pointing out
the nice rounded hollow at the junction of the fingers, or by
referring to the junction of the branches to the stem of a tree.
Hence he made a point of having all the angles of his machine
framework nicely rounded off on their exterior, and carefully
hollowed in their interior angles. In forging such articles he would
so shape his metal before bending that the result should be the right
hollow or rounded corner when bent; the anticipated external angle
falling into its proper place when the bar so shaped was brought to
its ultimate form. In all such matters of detail he was greatly
assisted by his early dexterity as a blacksmith; and he used to say
that to be a good smith you must be able to SEE in the bar of iron
the object proposed to be got out of it by the hammer or the tool,
just as the sculptor is supposed to see in the block of stone the
statue which he proposes to bring forth from it by his mind and his

Mr. Maudslay did not allow himself to forget his skill in the use of
the hammer, and to the last he took pleasure in handling it,
sometimes in the way of business, and often through sheer love of his
art. Mr Nasmyth says, "It was one of my duties, while acting as
assistant in his beautiful little workshop, to keep up a stock of
handy bars of lead which he had placed on a shelf under his
work-bench, which was of thick slate for the more ready making of his
usual illustrative sketches of machinery in chalk. His love of
iron-forging led him to take delight in forging the models of work to
be ultimately done in iron; and cold lead being of about the same
malleability as red-hot iron, furnished a convenient material for
illustrating the method to be adopted with the large work. I well
remember the smile of satisfaction that lit up his honest face when
he met with a good excuse for 'having a go at' one of the bars of
lead with hammer and anvil as if it were a bar of iron; and how, with
a few dexterous strokes, punchings of holes, and rounded notches, he
would give the rough bar or block its desired form. He always aimed
at working it out of the solid as much as possible, so as to avoid
the risk of any concealed defect, to which ironwork built up of
welded parts is so liable; and when he had thus cleverly finished his
model, he used forthwith to send for the foreman of smiths, and show
him how he was to instruct his men as to the proper forging of the
desired object." One of Mr. Maudslay's old workmen, when informing us
of the skilful manner in which he handled the file, said, "It was a
pleasure to see him handle a tool of any kind, but he was QUITE
SPLENDID with an eighteen-inch file!" The vice at which he worked was
constructed by himself, and it was perfect of its kind. It could be
turned round to any position on the bench; the jaws would turn from
the horizontal to the perpendicular or any other
position--upside-down if necessary--and they would open twelve inches

Mr. Nasmyth furnishes the following further recollections of Mr.
Maudslay, which will serve in some measure to illustrate his personal
character. "Henry Maudslay," he says, "lived in the days of
snuff-taking, which unhappily, as I think, has given way to the
cigar-smoking system. He enjoyed his occasional pinch very much. It
generally preceded the giving out of a new notion or suggestion for
an improvement or alteration of some job in hand. As with most of
those who enjoy their pinch, about three times as much was taken
between the fingers as was utilized by the nose, and the consequence
was that a large unconsumed surplus collected in the folds of the
master's waistcoat as he sat working at his bench. Sometimes a file,
or a tool, or some small piece of work would drop, and then it was my
duty to go down on my knees and fetch it up. On such occasions, while
waiting for the article, he would take the opportunity of pulling
down his waistcoat front, which had become disarranged by his
energetic working at the bench; and many a time have I come up with
the dropped article, half-blinded by the snuff jerked into my eyes
from off his waistcoat front.

"All the while he was at work he would be narrating some incident in
his past life, or describing the progress of some new and important
undertaking, in illustrating which he would use the bit of chalk
ready to his hand upon the slate bench before him, which was thus in
almost constant use. One of the pleasures he indulged in while he sat
at work was Music, of which he was very fond,--more particularly of
melodies and airs which took a lasting hold on his mind. Hence he was
never without an assortment of musical boxes, some of which were of a
large size. One of these he would set agoing on his library table,
which was next to his workshop, and with the door kept open, he was
thus enabled to enjoy the music while he sat working at his bench.
Intimate friends would frequently call upon him and sit by the hour,
but though talking all the while he never dropped his work, but
continued employed on it with as much zeal as if he were only
beginning life. His old friend Sir Samuel Bentham was a frequent
caller in this way, as well as Sir Isambard Brunel while occupied
with his Thames Tunnel works*
Among the last works executed by the firm during Mr. Maudslay's
lifetime was the famous Shield employed by his friend Brunel in
carrying forward the excavation of the Thames Tunnel. He also
supplied the pumping-engines for the same great work, the completion
of which he did not live to see.
and Mr. Chantrey, who was accustomed to consult him about the
casting of his bronze statuary. Mr. Barton of the Royal Mint, and Mr.
Donkin the engineer, with whom Mr. Barton was associated in
ascertaining and devising a correct system of dividing the Standard
Yard, and many others, had like audience of Mr. Maudslay in his
little workshop, for friendly converse, for advice, or on affairs of

"It was a special and constant practice with him on a workman's
holiday, or on a Sunday morning, to take a walk through his workshops
when all was quiet, and then and there examine the various jobs in
hand. On such occasions he carried with him a piece of chalk, with
which, in a neat and very legible hand, he would record his remarks
in the most pithy and sometimes caustic terms. Any evidence of want
of correctness in setting things square, or in 'flat filing,' which
he held in high esteem, or untidiness in not sweeping down the bench
and laying the tools in order, was sure to have a record in chalk
made on the spot. If it was a mild case, the reproof was recorded in
gentle terms, simply to show that the master's eye was on the
workman; but where the case deserved hearty approbation or required
equally hearty reproof, the words employed were few, but went
straight to the mark. These chalk jottings on the bench were held in
the highest respect by the workmen themselves, whether they conveyed
praise or blame, as they were sure to be deserved; and when the men
next assembled, it soon became known all over the shop who had
received the honour or otherwise of one of the master's bench
memoranda in chalk."

The vigilant, the critical, and yet withal the generous eye of the
master being over all his workmen, it will readily be understood how
Maudslay's works came to be regarded as a first-class school for
mechanical engineers. Every one felt that the quality of his
workmanship was fully understood; and, if he had the right stuff in
him, and was determined to advance, that his progress in skill would
be thoroughly appreciated. It is scarcely necessary to point out how
this feeling, pervading the establishment, must have operated, not
only in maintaining the quality of the work, but in improving the
character of the workmen. The results were felt in the increased
practical ability of a large number of artisans, some of whom
subsequently rose to the highest distinction. Indeed it may be said
that what Oxford and Cambridge are in letters, workshops such as
Maudslay's and Penn's are in mechanics. Nor can Oxford and Cambridge
men be prouder of the connection with their respective colleges than
mechanics such as Whitworth, Nasmyth, Roberts, Muir, and Lewis, are
of their connection with the school of Maudslay. For all these
distinguished engineers at one time or another formed part of his
working staff, and were trained to the exercise of their special
abilities under his own eye. The result has been a development of
mechanical ability the like of which perhaps is not to be found in
any age or country.

Although Mr. Maudslay was an unceasing inventor, he troubled himself
very little about patenting his inventions. He considered that the
superiority of his tools and the excellence of his work were his
surest protection. Yet he had sometimes the annoyance of being
threatened with actions by persons who had patented the inventions
which he himself had made.*
His principal patent's were--two, taken out in 1805 and 1808, while
in Margaret Street, for printing calicoes (Nos. 2872 and 3117); one
taken out in 1806, in conjunction with Mr. Donkin, for lifting heavy
weights (2948); one taken out in 1807, while still in Margaret
Street, for improvements in the steam-engine, reducing its parts and
rendering it more compact and portable (3050); another, taken out in
conjunction with Robert Dickinson in 1812, for sweetening water and
other liquids (3538); and, lastly, a patent taken out in conjunction
"with Joshua Field in 1824 for preventing concentration of brine in
boilers (5021).
He was much beset by inventors, sometimes sadly out at elbows, but
always with a boundless fortune looming before them. To such as
applied to him for advice in a frank and candid spirit, he did not
hesitate to speak freely, and communicate the results of his great
experience in the most liberal manner; and to poor and deserving men
of this class he was often found as ready to help them with his purse
as with his still more valuable advice. He had a singular way of
estimating the abilities of those who thus called upon him about
their projects. The highest order of man was marked in his own mind
at l00 degrees; and by this ideal standard he measured others,
setting them down at 90 degrees, 80 degrees, and so on. A very
first-rate man he would set down at 95 degrees, but men of this rank
were exceedingly rare. After an interview with one of the applicants
to him for advice, he would say to his pupil Nasmyth, "Jem, I think
that man may be set down at 45 degrees, but he might be WORKED UP TO
60 degrees--a common enough way of speaking of the working of a
steam-engine, but a somewhat novel though by no means an inexpressive
method of estimating the powers of an individual.

But while he had much toleration for modest and meritorious
inventors, he had a great dislike for secret-mongers,--schemers of
the close, cunning sort,--and usually made short work of them. He had
an almost equal aversion for what he called the "fiddle-faddle
inventors," with their omnibus patents, into which they packed every
possible thing that their noddles could imagine. "Only once or twice
in a century," said he, "does a great inventor appear, and yet here
we have a set of fellows each taking out as many patents as would
fill a cart,--some of them embodying not a single original idea, but
including in their specifications all manner of modifications of
well-known processes, as well as anticipating the arrangements which
may become practicable in the progress of mechanical improvement."
Many of these "patents" he regarded as mere pit-falls to catch the
unwary; and he spoke of such "inventors" as the pests of the

The personal appearance of Henry Maudslay was in correspondence with
his character. He was of a commanding presence, for he stood full six
feet two inches in height, a massive and portly man. His face was
round, full, and lit up with good humour. A fine, large, and square
forehead, of the grand constructive order, dominated over all, and
his bright keen eye gave energy and life to his countenance. He was
thoroughly "jolly" and good-natured, yet full of force and character.
It was a positive delight to hear his cheerful, ringing laugh. He was
cordial in manner, and his frankness set everybody at their ease who
had occasion to meet him, even for the first time. No one could be
more faithful and consistent in his friendships, nor more firm in the
hour of adversity. In fine, Henry Maudslay was, as described by his
friend Mr. Nasmyth, the very beau ideal of an honest, upright,
straight-forward, hard-working, intelligent Englishman.

A severe cold which he caught on his way home from one of his visits to
France, was the cause of his death, which occurred on the l4th of
February, 1831. The void which his decease caused was long and deeply
felt, not only by his family and his large circle of friends, but by
his workmen, who admired him for his industrial skill, and loved him
because of his invariably manly, generous, and upright conduct towards
them. He directed that he should be buried in Woolwich
parish-churchyard, where a cast-iron tomb, made to his own design, was
erected over his remains. He had ever a warm heart for Woolwich, where
he had been born and brought up. He often returned to it, sometimes to
carry his mother a share of his week's wages while she lived, and
afterwards to refresh himself with a sight of the neighbourhood with
which he had been so familiar when a boy. He liked its green common,
with the soldiers about it; Shooter's Hill, with its out-look over Kent
and down the valley of the Thames; the river busy with shipping, and
the royal craft loading and unloading their armaments at the dockyard
wharves. He liked the clangour of the Arsenal smithy where he had first
learned his art, and all the busy industry of the place. It was
natural, therefore, that, being proud of his early connection with
Woolwich, he should wish to lie there; and Woolwich, on its part, let
us add, has equal reason to he proud of Henry Maudslay.



"It is almost impossible to over-estimate the importance of these
inventions. The Greeks would have elevated their authors among the
gods; nor will the enlightened judgment of modern times deny them the
place among their fellow-men which is so undeniably their due."--
Edinburgh Review.

That Skill in mechanical contrivance is a matter of education and
training as well as of inborn faculty, is clear from the fact of so
many of our distinguished mechanics undergoing the same kind of
practical discipline, and perhaps still more so from the circumstance
of so many of them passing through the same workshops. Thus Maudslay
and Clement were trained in the workshops of Bramah; and Roberts,
Whitworth, Nasmyth, and others, were trained in those of Maudslay.

Joseph Clement was born at Great Ashby in Westmoreland, in the year
1779. His father was a hand-loom weaver, and a man of remarkable
culture considering his humble station in life. He was an ardent
student of natural history, and possessed a much more complete
knowledge of several sub-branches of that science than was to have
been looked for in a common working-man. One of the departments which
he specially studied was Entomology. In his leisure hours he was
accustomed to traverse the country searching the hedge-bottoms for
beetles and other insects, of which he formed a remarkably complete
collection; and the capture of a rare specimen was quite an event in
his life. In order more deliberately to study the habits of the bee
tribe, he had a number of hives constructed for the purpose of
enabling him to watch their proceedings without leaving his work; and
the pursuit was a source of the greatest pleasure to him. He was a
lover of all dumb creatures; his cottage was haunted by birds which
flew in and out at his door, and some of them became so tame as to
hop up to him and feed out of his hand. "Old Clement" was also a bit
of a mechanic, and such of his leisure moments as he did not devote
to insect-hunting, were employed in working a lathe of his own
construction, which he used to turn his bobbing on, and also in
various kinds of amateur mechanics.

His boy Joseph, like other poor men's sons, was early set to work. He
received very little education, and learnt only the merest rudiments
of reading and writing at the village school. The rest of his
education he gave to himself as he grew older. His father needed his
help at the loom, where he worked with him for some years; but, as
handloom weaving was gradually being driven out by improved
mechanism, the father prudently resolved to put his son to a better
trade. They have a saying in Cumberland that when the bairns reach a
certain age, they are thrown on to the house-rigg, and that those who
stick on are made thatchers of, while those who fall off are sent to
St. Bees to be made parsons of. Joseph must have been one of those
that stuck on--at all events his father decided to make him a
thatcher, afterwards a slater, and he worked at that trade for five
years, between eighteen and twenty-three.

The son, like the father, had a strong liking for mechanics, and as
the slating trade did not keep him in regular employment, especially
in winter time, he had plenty of opportunity for following the bent
of his inclinations. He made a friend of the village blacksmith,
whose smithy he was accustomed to frequent, and there he learned to
work at the forge, to handle the hammer and file, and in a short time
to shoe horses with considerable expertness. A cousin of his named
Farer, a clock and watchmaker by trade, having returned to the
village from London, brought with him some books on mechanics, which
he lent to Joseph to read; and they kindled in him an ardent desire
to be a mechanic instead of a slater. He nevertheless continued to
maintain himself by the latter trade for some time longer, until his
skill had grown; and, by way of cultivating it, he determined, with
the aid of his friend the village blacksmith, to make a
turning-lathe. The two set to work, and the result was the production
of an article in every way superior to that made by Clement's father,
which was accordingly displaced to make room for the new machine. It
was found to work very satisfactorily, and by its means Joseph
proceeded to turn fifes, flutes, clarinets, and hautboys; for to his
other accomplishments he joined that of music, and could play upon
the instruments that he made. One of his most ambitious efforts was
the making of a pair of Northumberland bagpipes, which he finished to
his satisfaction, and performed upon to the great delight of the
villagers. To assist his father in his entomological studies, he even
contrived, with the aid of the descriptions given in the books
borrowed from his cousin the watchmaker, to make for him a
microscope, from which he proceeded to make a reflecting telescope,
which proved a very good instrument. At this early period (1804) he
also seems to have directed his attention to screw-making--a branch
of mechanics in which he afterwards became famous; and he proceeded
to make a pair of very satisfactory die-stocks, though it is said
that he had not before seen or even heard of such a contrivance for
making screws.

So clever a workman was not likely to remain long a village slater.
Although the ingenious pieces of work which he turned out by his
lathe did not bring him in much money, he liked the occupation so
much better than slating that he was gradually giving up that trade.
His father urged him to stick to slating as "a safe thing;" but his
own mind was in favour of following his instinct to be a mechanic;
and at length he determined to leave his village and seek work in a
new line. He succeeded in finding employment in a small factory at
Kirby Stephen, a town some thirteen miles from Great Ashby, where he
worked at making power-looms. From an old statement of account
against his employer which we have seen, in his own handwriting,
dated the 6th September, 1805, it appears that his earnings at such
work as "fitting the first set of iron loames," "fitting up
shittles," and "making moddles," were 3s. 6d. a day; and he must,
during the same time, have lived with his employer, who charged him
as a set-off "14 weaks bord at 8s. per weak." He afterwards seems to
have worked at piece-work in partnership with one Andrew Gamble
supplying the materials as well as the workmanship for the looms and
shuttles. His employer, Mr. George Dickinson, also seems to have
bought his reflecting telescope from him for the sum of 12l.

From Kirby Stephen Clement removed to Carlisle, where he was employed
by Forster and Sons during the next two years at the same description
of work; and he conducted himself, according; to their certificate on
his leaving their employment to proceed to Glasgow in 1807, "with
great sobriety and industry, entirely to their satisfaction." While
working at Glasgow as a turner, he took lessons in drawing from Peter
Nicholson, the well-known writer on carpentry--a highly ingenious
man. Nicholson happened to call at the shop at which Clement worked
in order to make a drawing of a power-loom; and Clement's expressions
of admiration at his expertness were so enthusiastic, that Nicholson,
pleased with the youth's praise, asked if he could be of service to
him in any way. Emboldened by the offer, Clement requested, as the
greatest favour he could confer upon him, to have the loan of the
drawing he had just made, in order that he might copy it. The request
was at once complied with; and Clement, though very poor at the time,
and scarcely able to buy candle for the long winter evenings, sat up
late every night until he had finished it. Though the first drawing
he had ever made, he handed it back to Nicholson instead of the
original, and at first the draughtsman did not recognise that the
drawing was not his own. When Clement told him that it was only the
copy, Nicholson's brief but emphatic praise was --- "Young man,
YOU'LL DO!" Proud to have such a pupil, Nicholson generously offered
to give him gratuitous lessons in drawing, which were thankfully
accepted; and Clement, working at nights with great ardour, soon made
rapid progress, and became an expert draughtsman.

Trade being very slack in Glasgow at the time, Clement, after about a
year's stay in the place, accepted a situation with Messrs. Leys,
Masson, and Co., of Aberdeen, with whom he began at a guinea and a
half a week, from which he gradually rose to two guineas, and
ultimately to three guineas. His principal work consisted in
designing and making power-looms for his employers, and fitting them
up in different parts of the country. He continued to devote himself
to the study of practical mechanics, and made many improvements in
the tools with which he worked. While at Glasgow he had made an
improved pair of die-stocks for screws; and, at Aberdeen, he made a
turning-lathe with a sliding mandrill and guide-screws, for cutting
screws, furnished also with the means for correcting guide-screws. In
the same machine he introduced a small slide rest, into which he
fixed the tool for cutting the screws,--having never before seen a
slide rest, though it is very probable he may have heard of what
Maudslay had already done in the same direction. Clement continued
during this period of his life an industrious self-cultivator,
occupying most of his spare hours in mechanical and landscape
drawing, and in various studies. Among the papers left behind him we
find a ticket to a course of instruction on Natural Philosophy given
by Professor Copland in the Marischal College at Aberdeen, which
Clement attended in the session of 1812-13; and we do not doubt that
our mechanic was among the most diligent of his pupils. Towards the
end of 1813, after saving about 100L. out of his wages, Clement
resolved to proceed to London for the purpose of improving himself in
his trade and pushing his way in the world. The coach by which he
travelled set him down in Snow Hill, Holborn; and his first thought
was of finding work. He had no friend in town to consult on the
matter, so he made inquiry of the coach-guard whether he knew of any
person in the mechanical line in that neighbourhood. The guard said,
"Yes; there was Alexander Galloway's show shop, just round the
corner, and he employed a large number of hands." Running round the
corner, Clement looked in at Galloway's window, through which he saw
some lathes and other articles used in machine shops. Next morning he
called upon the owner of the shop to ask employment. "What can you
do?" asked Galloway. "I can work at the forge," said Clement.
"Anything else?" "I can turn." "What else?" "I can draw." "What!"
said Galloway, "can you draw? Then I will engage you." A man who
could draw or work to a drawing in those days was regarded as a
superior sort of mechanic. Though Galloway was one of the leading
tradesmen of his time, and had excellent opportunities for
advancement, he missed them all. As Clement afterwards said of him,
"He was only a mouthing common-council man, the height of whose
ambition was to be an alderman;" and, like most corporation
celebrities, he held a low rank in his own business. He very rarely
went into his workshops to superintend or direct his workmen, leaving
this to his foremen--a sufficient indication of the causes of his
failure as a mechanic.*
On one occasion Galloway had a cast-iron roof made for his workshop,
so flat and so independent of ties that the wonder was that it should
have stood an hour. One day Peter Keir, an engineer much employed by
the government--a clever man, though some what eccentric--was taken
into the shop by Galloway to admire the new roof. Keir, on glancing
up at it, immediately exclaimed, "Come outside, and let us speak
about it there!" All that he could say to Galloway respecting the
unsoundness of its construction was of no avail. The fact was that,
however Keir might argue about its not being able to stand, there it
was actually standing, and that was enough for Galloway. Keir went
home, his mind filled with Galloway's most unprincipled roof. "If
that stands," said he to himself, "all that I have been learning and
doing for thirty years has been wrong." That night he could not sleep
for thinking about it. In the morning he strolled up Primrose Hill,
and returned home still muttering to himself about "that roof."
"What, said his wife to him, "are you thinking of Galloway's roof?"
"Yes, said he. "Then you have seen the papers?" "No -- what about
them?" "Galloway's roof has fallen in this morning, and killed eight
or ten of the men!" Keir immediately went to bed, and slept soundly
till next morning.

On entering Galloway's shop, Clement was first employed in working at
the lathe; but finding the tools so bad that it was impossible to
execute satisfactory work with them, he at once went to the forge,
and began making a new set of tools for himself. The other men, to
whom such a proceeding was entirely new, came round him to observe
his operations, and they were much struck with his manual dexterity.
The tools made, he proceeded to use them, displaying what seemed to
the other workmen an unusual degree of energy and intelligence; and
some of the old hands did not hesitate already to pronounce Clement
to be the best mechanic in the shop. When Saturday night came round,
the other men were curious to know what wages Galloway would allow
the new hand; and when he had been paid, they asked him. "A guinea,"
was the reply. "A guinea! Why, you are worth two if you are worth a
shilling," said an old man who came out of the rank--an excellent
mechanic, who, though comparatively worthless through his devotion to
drink, knew Clement's money value to his employer better than any man
there; and he added, "Wait for a week or two, and if you are not
better paid than this, I can tell you of a master who will give you a
fairer wage." Several Saturdays came round, but no advance was made
on the guinea a week; and then the old workman recommended Clement to
offer himself to Bramah at Pimlico, who was always on the look out
for first-rate mechanics.

Clement acted on the advice, and took with him some of his drawings,
at sight of which Bramah immediately engaged him for a month; and at
the end of that time he had given so much satisfaction, that it was
agreed he should continue for three months longer at two guineas a
week. Clement was placed in charge of the tools of the shop, and he
showed himself so apt at introducing improvements in them, as well as
in organizing the work with a view to despatch and economy, that at
the end of the term Bramah made him a handsome present, adding, "if I
had secured your services five years since, I would now have been a
richer man by many thousands of pounds." A formal agreement for a
term of five years was then entered into between Bramah and Clement,
dated the 1st of April, 1814, by which the latter undertook to fill
the office of chief-draughtsman and superintendent of the Pimlico
Works, in consideration of a salary of three guineas a week, with an
advance of four shillings a week in each succeeding year of the
engagement. This arrangement proved of mutual advantage to both.
Clement devoted himself with increased zeal to the improvement of the
mechanical arrangements of the concern, exhibiting his ingenuity in
many ways, and taking; a genuine pride in upholding the character of
his master for turning out first-class work.

On the death of Bramah, his sons returned from college and entered
into possession of the business. They found Clement the ruling mind
there and grew jealous of him to such an extent that his situation
became uncomfortable; and by mutual consent he was allowed to leave
before the expiry of his term of agreement. He had no difficulty in
finding employment; and was at once taken on as chief draughtsman at
Maudslay and Field's where he was of much assistance in proportioning
the early marine engines, for the manufacture of which that firm were
becoming celebrated. After a short time, he became desirous of
beginning business on his own account as a mechanical engineer. He
was encouraged to do this by the Duke of Northumberland, who, being a
great lover of mechanics and himself a capital turner, used often to
visit Maudslay's, and thus became acquainted with Clement, whose
expertness as a draughtsman and mechanic he greatly admired. Being a
man of frugal and sober habits, always keeping his expenditure very
considerably within his income, Clement had been enabled to
accumulate about 500L., which he thought would be enough for his
purpose; and he accordingly proceeded, in 1817, to take a small
workshop in Prospect Place, Newington Butts, where he began business
as a mechanical draughtsman and manufacturer of small machinery
requiring first-class workmanship.

From the time when he took his first gratuitous lessons in drawing
from Peter Nicholson, at Glasgow, in 1807, he had been steadily
improving in this art, the knowledge of which is indispensable to
whoever aspires to eminence as a mechanical engineer,--until by
general consent Clement was confessed to stand unrivalled as a
draughtsman. Some of the very best drawings contained in the
Transactions of the Society of Arts, from the year 1817
downwards,--especially those requiring the delineation of any
unusually elaborate piece of machinery,--proceeded from the hand of
Clement. In some of these, he reached a degree of truth in mechanical
perspective which has never been surpassed.*
See more particularly The Transactions of the Society for the
Encouragement of Arts, vol. xxxiii. (l8l7), at pp. 74,l57,l60,175,208
(an admirable drawing; of Mr. James Allen's Theodolite); vol. xxxvi.
(1818), pp. 28,176 (a series of remarkable illustrations of Mr.
Clement's own invention of an Instrument for Drawing Ellipses); vol.
xliii. (1825), containing an illustration of the Drawing Table
invented by him for large drawings; vol. xlvi. (1828), containing a
series of elaborate illustrations of his Prize Turning Lathe; and
xlviii. 1829, containing illustrations of his Self-adjusting Double
Driver Centre Chuck.
To facilitate his labours, he invented an extremely ingenious
instrument, by means of which ellipses of all proportions, as well as
circles and right lines, might be geometrically drawn on paper or on
copper. He took his idea of this instrument from the trammel used by
carpenters for drawing imperfect ellipses; and when he had succeeded
in avoiding the crossing of the points, he proceeded to invent the
straight-line motion. For this invention the Society of Arts awarded
him their gold medal in 1818. Some years later, he submitted to the
same Society his invention of a stand for drawings of large size. He
had experienced considerable difficulty in making such drawings, and
with his accustomed readiness to overcome obstacles, he forthwith set
to work and brought out his new drawing-table.

As with many other original-minded mechanics, invention became a
habit with him, and by study and labour he rarely failed in attaining
the object which he had bent his mind upon accomplishing. Indeed,
nothing pleased him better than to have what he called "a tough job;"
as it stimulated his inventive faculty, in the exercise of which he
took the highest pleasure. Hence mechanical schemers of all kinds
were accustomed to resort to Clement for help when they had found an
idea which they desired to embody in a machine. If there was any
value in their idea, none could be more ready than he to recognise
its merit, and to work it into shape; but if worthless, he spoke out
his mind at once, dissuading the projector from wasting upon it
further labour or expense.

One of the important branches of practical mechanics to which Clement
continued through life to devote himself, was the improvement of
self-acting tools, more especially of the slide-lathe. He introduced
various improvements in its construction and arrangement, until in
his hands it became as nearly perfect as it was possible to be. In
1818, he furnished the lathe with a slide rest twenty-two inches
long, for the purpose of cutting screws, provided with the means of
self-correction; and some years later, in 1827, the Society of Arts
awarded him their gold Isis medal for his improved turning-lathe,
which embodied many ingenious contrivances calculated to increase its
precision and accuracy in large surface-turning.

The beautiful arrangements embodied in Mr. Clement's improved lathe
can with difficulty be described in words; but its ingenuity may be
inferred from a brief statement of the defects which it was invented
to remedy, and which it successfully overcame. When the mandrill of a
lathe, having a metal plate fixed to it, turns round with a uniform
motion, and the slide rest which carries the cutter is moving from
the circumference of the work to the centre, it will be obvious that
the quantity of metal passing over the edge of the cutter at each
revolution, and therefore at equal intervals of time, is continually
diminishing, in exact proportion to the spiral line described by the
cutter on the face of the work. But in turning metal plates it is
found very in expedient to increase the speed of the work beyond a
certain quantity; for when this happens, and the tool passes the work
at too great a velocity, it heats, softens, and is ground away, the
edge of the cutter becomes dull, and the surface of the plate is
indented and burnished, instead of being turned. Hence loss of time
on the part of the workman, and diminished work on the part of the
tool, results which, considering the wages of the one and the capital
expended on the construction of the other, are of no small
importance; for the prime objects of all improvement of tools are,
economy of time and economy of capital--to minimize labour and cost,
and maximize result.

The defect to which we have referred was almost the only remaining
imperfection in the lathe, and Mr. Clement overcame it by making the
machine self-regulating; so that, whatever might be the situation of
the cutter, equal quantities of metal should pass over it in equal
times,--the speed at the centre not exceeding that suited to the work
at the circumference,--while the workman was enabled to convert the
varying rate of the mandrill into a uniform one whenever he chose.
Thus the expedients of wheels, riggers, and drums, of different
diameters, by which it had been endeavoured to alter the speed of the
lathe-mandrill, according to the hardness of the metal and the
diameter of the thing to be turned, were effectually disposed of.
These, though answering very well where cylinders of equal diameter
had to be bored, and a uniform motion was all that was required, were
found very inefficient where a Plane surface had to be turned; and it
was in such cases that Mr. Clement's lathe was found so valuable. By
its means surfaces of unrivalled correctness were produced, and the
slide-lathe, so improved, became recognised and adopted as the most
accurate and extensively applicable of all machine-tools.

The year after Mr. Clement brought out his improved turning-lathe, he
added to it his self-adjusting double driving centre-chuck, for which
the Society of Arts awarded him their silver medal in 1828. In
introducing this invention to the notice of the Society, Mr. Clement
said, "Although I have been in the habit of turning and making
turning-lathes and other machinery for upwards of thirty-five years,
and have examined the best turning-lathes in the principal
manufactories throughout Great Britain, I find it universally
regretted by all practical men that they cannot turn anything
perfectly true between the centres of the lathe." It was found by
experience, that there was a degree of eccentricity, and consequently
of imperfection, in the figure of any long cylinder turned while
suspended between the centres of the lathe, and made to revolve by
the action of a single driver. Under such circumstances the pressure
of the tool tended to force the work out of the right line and to
distribute the strain between the driver and the adjacent centre, so
that one end of the cylinder became eccentric with respect to the
other. By Mr. Clement's invention of the two-armed driver, which was
self-adjusting, the strain was taken from the centre and divided
between the two arms, which being equidistant from the centre,
effectually corrected all eccentricity in the work. This invention
was found of great importance in ensuring the true turning of large
machinery, which before had been found a matter of considerable

In the same year (1828) Mr. Clement began the making of fluted taps
and dies, and he established a mechanical practice with reference to
the pitch of the screw, which proved of the greatest importance in
the economics of manufacture. Before his time, each mechanical
engineer adopted a thread of his own; so that when a piece of work
came under repair, the screw-hob had usually to be drilled out, and a
new thread was introduced according to the usage which prevailed in
the shop in which the work was executed. Mr. Clement saw a great
waste of labour in this practice, and he promulgated the idea that
every screw of a particular length ought to be furnished with its
appointed number of threads of a settled pitch. Taking the inch as
the basis of his calculations, he determined the number of threads in
each case; and the practice thus initiated by him, recommended as it
was by convenience and economy, was very shortly adopted throughout
the trade. It may be mentioned that one of Clement's ablest
journeymen, Mr. Whitworth, has, since his time, been mainly
instrumental in establishing the settled practice; and Whitworth's
thread (initiated by Clement) has become recognised throughout the
mechanical world. To carry out his idea, Clement invented his
screw-engine lathe, with gearing, mandrill, and sliding-table
wheel-work, by means of which he first cut the inside screw-tools
from the left-handed hobs--the reverse mode having before been
adopted,--while in shaping machines he was the first to use the
revolving cutter attached to the slide rest. Then, in 1828, he fluted
the taps for the first time with a revolving cutter,--other makers
having up to that time only notched them. Among his other inventions
in screws may be mentioned his headless tap, which, according to Mr.
Nasmyth, is so valuable an invention, that, "if he had done nothing
else, it ought to immortalize him among mechanics. It passed right
through the hole to be tapped, and was thus enabled to do the duty of
three ordinary screws." By these improvements much greater precision
was secured in the manufacture of tools and machinery, accompanied by
a greatly reduced cost of production; the results of which are felt
to this day.

Another of Mr. Clement's ingenious inventions was his Planing
Machine, by means of which metal plates of large dimensions were
planed with perfect truth and finished with beautiful accuracy. There
is perhaps scarcely a machine about which there has been more
controversy than this; and we do not pretend to be able to determine
the respective merits of the many able mechanics who have had a hand
in its invention. It is exceedingly probable that others besides
Clement worked out the problem in their own way, by independent
methods; and this is confirmed by the circumstance that though the
results achieved by the respective inventors were the same, the
methods employed by them were in many respects different. As regards
Clement, we find that previous to the year 1820 he had a machine in
regular use for planing the triangular bars of lathes and the sides
of weaving-looms. This instrument was found so useful and so
economical in its working, that Clement proceeded to elaborate a
planing machine of a more complete kind, which he finished and set to
work in the year 1825. He prepared no model of it, but made it direct
from the working drawings; and it was so nicely constructed, that
when put together it went without a hitch, and has continued steadily
working for more than thirty years down to the present day.

Clement took out no patent for his invention, relying for protection
mainly on his own and his workmen's skill in using it. We therefore
find no specification of his machine at the Patent Office, as in the
case of most other capital inventions; but a very complete account of
it is to be found in the Transactions of the Society of Arts for
1832, as described by Mr. Varley. The practical value of the Planing
Machine induced the Society to apply to Mr. Clement for liberty to
publish a full description of it; and Mr. Varley's paper was the
Transactions of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, vol. xlix.
It may be briefly stated that this engineer's plane differs greatly
from the carpenter's plane, the cutter of which is only allowed to
project so far as to admit of a thin shaving to be sliced off,--the
plane working flat in proportion to the width of the tool, and its
length and straightness preventing the cutter from descending into
any hollows in the wood. The engineer's plane more resembles the
turning-lathe, of which indeed it is but a modification, working up
on the same principle, on flat surfaces. The tools or cutters in
Clement's machine were similar to those used in the lathe, varying in
like manner, but performing their work in right lines,--the tool
being stationary and the work moving under it, the tool only
travelling when making lateral cuts. To save time two cutters were
mounted, one to cut the work while going, the other while returning,
both being so arranged and held as to be presented to the work in the
firmest manner, and with the least possible friction. The bed of the
machine, on which the work was laid, passed under the cutters on
perfectly true rollers or wheels, lodged and held in their bearings
as accurately as the best mandrill could be, and having set-screws
acting against their ends totally preventing all end-motion. The
machine was bedded on a massive and solid foundation of masonry in
heavy blocks, the support at all points being so complete as
effectually to destroy all tendency to vibration, with the object of
securing full, round, and quiet cuts. The rollers on which the
planing-machine travelled were so true, that Clement himself used to
say of them, "If you were to put but a paper shaving under one of the
rollers, it would at once stop all the rest." Nor was this any
exaggeration--the entire mechanism, notwithstanding its great size,
being as true and accurate as that of a watch.

By an ingenious adaptation of the apparatus, which will also be found
described in the Society of Arts paper, the planing machine might be
fitted with a lathe-bed, either to hold two centres, or a head with a
suitable mandrill. When so fitted, the machine was enabled to do the
work of a turning-lathe, though in a different way, cutting cylinders
or cones in their longitudinal direction perfectly straight, as well
as solids or prisms of any angle, either by the longitudinal or
lateral motion of the cutter; whilst by making the work revolve, it
might be turned as in any other lathe. This ingenious machine, as
contrived by Mr. Clement, therefore represented a complete union of
the turning-lathe with the planing machine and dividing engine, by
which turning of the most complicated kind might readily be executed.
For ten years after it was set in motion, Clement's was the only
machine of the sort available for planing large work; and being
consequently very much in request, it was often kept going night and
day,--the earnings by the planing machine alone during that time
forming the principal income of its inventor. As it took in a piece
of work six feet square, and as his charge for planing was
three-halfpence the square inch, or eighteen shillings the square
foot, he could thus earn by his machine alone some ten pounds for
every day's work of twelve hours. We may add that since planing
machines in various forms have become common in mechanical workshops,
the cost of planing does not amount to more than three-halfpence the
square foot.

The excellence of Mr. Clement's tools, and his well-known skill in
designing and executing work requiring unusual accuracy and finish,
led to his being employed by Mr. Babbage to make his celebrated
Calculating or Difference Engine. The contrivance of a machine that
should work out complicated sums in arithmetic with perfect
precision, was, as may readily be imagined, one of the most difficult
feats of the mechanical intellect. To do this was in an especial
sense to stamp matter with the impress of mind, and render it
subservient to the highest thinking faculty. Attempts had been made
at an early period to perform arithmetical calculations by mechanical
aids more rapidly and precisely than it was possible to do by the
operations of the individual mind. The preparation of arithmetical
tables of high numbers involved a vast deal of labour, and even with
the greatest care errors were unavoidable and numerous. Thus in a
multipltcation-table prepared by a man so eminent as Dr. Hutton for
the Board of Longitude, no fewer than forty errors were discovered in
a single page taken at random. In the tables of the Nautical Almanac,
where the greatest possible precision was desirable and necessary,
more than five hundred errors were detected by one person; and the
Tables of the Board of Longitude were found equally incorrect. But
such errors were impossible to be avoided so long as the ordinary
modes of calculating, transcribing, and printing continued in use.

The earliest and simplest form of calculating apparatus was that
employed by the schoolboys of ancient Greece, called the Abacus;
consisting of a smooth board with a narrow rim, on which they were
taught to compute by means of progressive rows of pebbles, bits of
bone or ivory, or pieces of silver coin, used as counters. The same
board, strewn over with sand, was used for teaching the rudiments of
writing and the principles of geometry. The Romans subsequently
adopted the Abacus, dividing it by means of perpendicular lines or
bars, and from the designation of calculus which they gave to each
pebble or counter employed on the board, we have derived our English
word to calculate. The same instrument continued to be employed
during the middle ages, and the table used by the English Court of
Exchequer was but a modified form of the Greek Abacus, the chequered
lines across it giving the designation to the Court, which still
survives. Tallies, from the French word tailler to cut, were another
of the mechanical methods employed to record computations, though in
a very rude way. Step by step improvements were made; the most
important being that invented by Napier of Merchiston, the inventor
of logarithms, commonly called Napier's bones, consisting of a number
of rods divided into ten equal squares and numbered, so that the
whole when placed together formed the common multiplication table. By
these means various operations in multiplication and division were
performed. Sir Samuel Morland, Gunter, and Lamb introduced other
contrivances, applicable to trigonometry; Gunter's scale being still
in common use. The calculating machines of Gersten and Pascal were of
a different kind, working out arithmetical calculations by means of
trains of wheels and other arrangements; and that contrived by Lord
Stanhope for the purpose of verifying his calculations with respect
to the National Debt was of like character. But none of these will
bear for a moment to be compared with the machine designed by Mr.
Babbage for performing arithmetical calculations and mathematical
analyses, as well as for recording the calculations when made,
thereby getting rid entirely of individual error in the operations of
calculation, transcription, and printing.

The French government, in their desire to promote the extension of
the decimal system, had ordered the construction of logarithmical
tables of vast extent; but the great labour and expense involved in
the undertaking prevented the design from being carried out. It was
reserved for Mr. Babbage to develope the idea by means of a machine
which he called the Difference Engine. This machine is of so
complicated a character that it would be impossible for us to give
any intelligible description of it in words . Although Dr. Lardner
was unrivalled in the art of describing mechanism, he occupied
twenty-five pages of the 'Edinburgh Review' (vol.59) in endeavouring
to describe its action, and there were several features in it which
he gave up as hopeless. Some parts of the apparatus and modes of
action are indeed extraordinary and perhaps none more so than that
for ensuring accuracy in the calculated results,--the machine
actually correcting itself, and rubbing itself back into accuracy,
when the disposition to err occurs, by the friction of the adjacent
machinery! When an error is made, the wheels become locked and refuse
to proceed; thus the machine must go rightly or not at all,--an
arrangement as nearly resembling volition as anything that brass and
steel are likely to accomplish.

This intricate subject was taken up by Mr. Babbage in 1821, when he
undertook to superintend for the British government the construction
of a machine for calculating and printing mathematical and
astronomical tables. The model first constructed to illustrate the
nature of his invention produced figures at the rate of 44 a minute.
In 1823 the Royal Society was requested to report upon the invention,
and after full inquiry the committee recommended it as one highly
deserving of public encouragement. A sum of 1500L. was then placed at
Mr. Babbage's disposal by the Lords of the Treasury for the purpose
of enabling him to perfect his invention. It was at this time that he
engaged Mr. Clement as draughtsman and mechanic to embody his ideas
in a working machine. Numerous tools were expressly contrived by the
latter for executing the several parts, and workmen were specially
educated for the purpose of using them. Some idea of the elaborate
character of the drawings may be formed from the fact that those
required for the calculating machinery alone--not to mention the
printing machinery, which was almost equally elaborate--covered not
less than four hundred square feet of surface! The cost of executing
the calculating machine was of course very great, and the progress of
the work was necessarily slow. The consequence was that the
government first became impatient, and then began to grumble at the
expense. At the end of seven years the engineer's bills alone were
found to amount to nearly 7200L., and Mr. Babbage's costs out of
pocket to 7000L. more. In order to make more satisfactory progress,
it was determined to remove the works to the neighbourhood of Mr.
Babbage's own residence; but as Clement's claims for conducting the
operations in the new premises were thought exorbitant, and as he
himself considered that the work did not yield him the average profit
of ordinary employment in his own trade, he eventually withdrew from
the enterprise, taking with him the tools which he had constructed
for executing the machine. The government also shortly after withdrew
from it, and from that time the scheme was suspended, the Calculating
Engine remaining a beautiful but unfinished fragment of a great work.
Though originally intended to go as far as twenty figures, it was
only completed to the extent of being capable of calculating to the
depth of five figures, and two orders of differences; and only a
small part of the proposed printing machinery was ever made. The
engine was placed in the museum of King's College in 1843, enclosed
in a glass case, until the year 1862, when it was removed for a time
to the Great Exhibition, where it formed perhaps the most remarkable
and beautifully executed piece of mechanism the combined result of
intellectual and mechanical contrivance--in the entire collection.*
A complete account of the calculating machine, as well as of an
analytical engine afterwards contrived by Mr. Babbage, of still
greater power than the other, will be found in the Bibliotheque
Universelle de Geneve, of which a translation into English, with
copious original notes, by the late Lady Lovelace, daughter of Lord
Byron, was published in the 3rd vol. of Taylor's Scientific Memoirs
(London, 1843). A history of the machine, and of the circumstances
connected with its construction, will also be found in Weld's History
of the Royal Society, vol. ii. 369-391. It remains to be added, that
the perusal by Messrs. Scheutz of Stockholm of Dr. Lardner's account
of Mr. Babbage's engine in the Edinburgh Review, led those clever
mechanics to enter upon the scheme of constructing and completing it,
and the result is, that their machine not only calculates the tables,
but prints the results. It took them nearly twenty years to perfect
it, but when completed the machine seemed to be almost capable of
thinking. The original was exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1855.
A copy of it has since been secured by the English government at a
cost of 1200L., and it is now busily employed at Somerset House in
working out annuity and other tables for the Registrar-General. The
copy was constructed, with several admirable improvements, by the
Messrs. Donkin, the well-known mechanical engineers, after the
working drawings of the Messrs. Scheutz.

Clement was on various other occasions invited to undertake work
requiring extra skill, which other mechanics were unwilling or unable
to execute. He was thus always full of employment, never being under
the necessity of canvassing for customers. He was almost constantly
in his workshop, in which he took great pride. His dwelling was over
the office in the yard, and it was with difficulty he could be
induced to leave the premises. On one occasion Mr. Brunel of the
Great Western Railway called upon him to ask if he could supply him
with a superior steam-whistle for his locomotives, the whistles which
they were using giving forth very little sound. Clement examined the
specimen brought by Brunel, and pronounced it to be "mere
tallow-chandler's work." He undertook to supply a proper article, and
after his usual fashion he proceeded to contrive a machine or tool
for the express purpose of making steam-whistles. They were made and
supplied, and when mounted on the locomotive the effect was indeed
"screaming." They were heard miles off, and Brunel, delighted,
ordered a hundred. But when the bill came in, it was found that the
charge made for them was very high--as much as 40L. the set. The
company demurred at the price,--Brunel declaring it to be six times
more than the price they had before been paying. "That may be;"
rejoined Clement, "but mine are more than six times better. You
ordered a first-rate article, and you must be content to pay for it."
The matter was referred to an arbitrator, who awarded the full sum
claimed. Mr. Weld mentions a similar case of an order which Clement
received from America to make a large screw of given dimensions "in
the best possible manner," and he accordingly proceeded to make one
with the greatest mathematical accuracy. But his bill amounted to
some hundreds of pounds, which completely staggered the American, who
did not calculate on having to pay more than 20L. at the utmost for
the screw. The matter was, however, referred to arbitrators, who gave
their decision, as in the former case, in favour of the mechanic.*
History of the Royal Society, ii. 374.

One of the last works which Clement executed as a matter of pleasure,
was the building of an organ for his own use. It will be remembered
that when working as a slater at Great Ashby, he had made flutes and
clarinets, and now in his old age he determined to try his skill at
making an organ--in his opinion the king of musical instruments. The
building of it became his hobby, and his greatest delight was in
superintending its progress. It cost him about two thousand pounds in
labour alone, but he lived to finish it, and we have been informed
that it was pronounced a very excellent instrument.

Clement was a heavy-browed man, without any polish of manner or
speech; for to the last he continued to use his strong Westmoreland
dialect. He was not educated in a literary sense; for he read but
little, and could write with difficulty. He was eminently a mechanic,
and had achieved his exquisite skill by observation, experience, and
reflection. His head was a complete repertory of inventions, on which
he was constantly drawing for the improvement of mechanical practice.
Though he had never more than thirty workmen in his factory, they
were all of the first class; and the example which Clement set before
them of extreme carefulness and accuracy in execution rendered his
shop one of the best schools of its time for the training of
thoroughly accomplished mechanics. Mr. Clement died in 1844, in his
sixty-fifth year; after which his works were carried on by Mr.
Wilkinson, one of his nephews; and his planing machine still
continues in useful work.



"Founders and senators of states and cities, lawgivers, extirpers of
tyrants, fathers of the people, and other eminent persons in civil
government, were honoured but with titles of Worthies or demi-gods;
whereas, such as were inventors and authors of new arts, endowments,
and commodities towards man's life, were ever consecrated amongst the
gods themselves."--BACON, Advancement of Learning.

While such were the advances made in the arts of tool-making and
engine-construction through the labours of Bramah, Maudslay, and
Clement, there were other mechanics of almost equal eminence who
flourished about the same time and subsequently in several of the
northern manufacturing towns. Among these may be mentioned James Fox
of Derby; Matthew Murray and Peter Fairbairn of Leeds; Richard
Roberts, Joseph Whitworth, James Nasmyth, and William Fairbairn of
Manchester; to all of whom the manufacturing industry of Great
Britain stands in the highest degree indebted.

James Fox, the founder of the Derby firm of mechanical engineers, was
originally a butler in the service of the Rev. Thomas Gisborne, of
Foxhall Lodge, Staffordshire. Though a situation of this kind might
not seem by any means favourable for the display of mechanical
ability, yet the butler's instinct for handicraft was so strong that
it could not be repressed; and his master not only encouraged him in
the handling of tools in his leisure hours, but had so genuine an
admiration of his skill as well as his excellent qualities of
character, that he eventually furnished him with the means of
beginning business on his own account.

The growth and extension of the cotton, silk, and lace trades, in the
neighbourhood of Derby, furnished Fox with sufficient opportunities
for the exercise of his mechanical skill; and he soon found ample
scope for its employment. His lace machinery became celebrated, and
he supplied it largely to the neighbouring town of Nottingham; he
also obtained considerable employment from the great firms of
Arkwright and Strutt-- the founders of the modem cotton manufacture.
Mr. Fox also became celebrated for his lathes, which were of
excellent quality, still maintaining their high reputation; and
besides making largely for the supply of the home demand, he exported
much machinery abroad, to France, Russia, and the Mauritius.

The present Messrs. Fox of Derby, who continue to carry on the
business of the firm, claim for their grandfather, its founder, that
he made the first planing machine in 1814,*
Engineer, Oct. 10th, 1862.
and they add that the original article continued in use until quite
recently. We have been furnished by Samuel Hall, formerly a workman
at the Messrs. Fox's, with the following description of the
machine: -- " It was essentially the same in principle as the planing
machine now in general use, although differing in detail. It had a
self-acting ratchet motion for moving the slides of a compound slide
rest, and a self-acting reversing tackle, consisting of three bevel
wheels, one a stud, one loose on the driving shaft, and another on a
socket, with a pinion on the opposite end of the driving shaft
running on the socket. The other end was the place for the driving
pulley. A clutch box was placed between the two opposite wheels,
which was made to slide on a feather, so that by means of another
shaft containing levers and a tumbling ball, the box on reversing was
carried from one bevel wheel to the opposite one." The same James Fox
is also said at a very early period to have invented a screw-cutting
machine, an engine for accurately dividing and cutting the teeth of
wheels, and a self-acting lathe. But the evidence as to the dates at
which these several inventions are said to have been made is so
conflicting that it is impossible to decide with whom the merit of
making them really rests. The same idea is found floating at the same
time in many minds, the like necessity pressing upon all, and the
process of invention takes place in like manner: hence the
contemporaneousness of so many inventions, and the disputes that
arise respecting them, as described in a previous chapter.

There are still other claimants for the merit of having invented the
planing machine; among whom may be mentioned more particularly
Matthew Murray of Leeds, and Richard Roberts of Manchester. We are
informed by Mr. March, the present mayor of Leeds, head of the
celebrated tool-manufacturing firm of that town, that when he first
went to work at Matthew Murray's, in 1814, a planing machine of his
invention was used to plane the circular part or back of the D valve,
which he had by that time introduced in the steam-engine. Mr. March
says, "I recollect it very distinctly, and even the sort of framing
on which it stood. The machine was not patented, and like many
inventions in those days, it was kept as much a secret as possible,
being locked up in a small room by itself, to which the ordinary
workmen could not obtain access. The year in which I remember it
being in use was, so far as I am aware, long before any
planing-machine of a similar kind had been invented."

Matthew Murray was born at Stockton-on-Tees in the year 1763. His
parents were of the working class, and Matthew, like the other
members of the family, was brought up with the ordinary career of
labour before him. When of due age his father apprenticed him to the
trade of a blacksmith, in which he very soon acquired considerable
expertness. He married before his term had expired; after which,
trade being slack at Stockton, he found it necessary to look for work
elsewhere. Leaving his wife behind him, he set out for Leeds with his
bundle on his back, and after a long journey on foot, he reached that
town with not enough money left in his pocket to pay for a bed at the
Bay Horse inn, where he put up. But telling the landlord that he
expected work at Marshall's, and seeming to be a respectable young
man, the landlord trusted him; and he was so fortunate as to obtain
the job which he sought at Mr. Marshall's, who was then beginning the
manufacture of flax, for which the firm has since become so famous.

Mr. Marshall was at that time engaged in improving the method of
We are informed in Mr. Longstaffe's Annals and Characteristics of
Darlington, that the spinning of flax by machinery was first begun by
one John Kendrew, an ingenious self-taught mechanic of that town, who
invented a machine for the purpose, for which he took out a patent in
1787. Mr. Marshall went over from Leeds to see his machine, and
agreed to give him so much per spindle for the right to use it. But
ceasing to pay the patent right, Kendrew commenced an action against
him for a sum of nine hundred pounds alleged to be due under the
agreement. The claim was disputed, and Kendrew lost his action; and
it is added in Longstaffe's Annals, that even had he succeeded, it
would have been of no use; for Mr. Marshall declared that he had not
then the money wherewith to pay him. It is possible that Matthew
Murray may have obtained some experience of flax-machinery in working
for Kendrew, which afterwards proved of use to him in Mr. Marshall's
and the young blacksmith was so fortunate or rather so dexterous as
to be able to suggest several improvements in the machinery which
secured the approval of his employer, who made him a present of 20L.,
and very shortly promoted him to be the first mechanic in the
workshop. On this stroke of good fortune Murray took a house at the
neighbouring village of Beeston, sent to Stockton for his wife, who
speedily joined him, and he now felt himself fairly started in the
world. He remained with Mr. Marshall for about twelve years, during
which he introduced numerous improvements in the machinery for
spinning flax, and obtained the reputation of being a first-rate
mechanic. This induced Mr. James Fenton and Mr. David Wood to offer
to join him in the establishment of an engineering and machine-making
factory at Leeds; which he agreed to, and operations were commenced
at Holbeck in the year 1795.

As Mr. Murray had obtained considerable practical knowledge of the
steam-engine while working at Mr. Marshall's, he took principal
charge of the engine-building department, while his partner Wood
directed the machine-making. In the branch of engine-building Mr.
Murray very shortly established a high reputation, treading close
upon the heels of Boulton and Watt--so close, indeed, that that firm
became very jealous of him, and purchased a large piece of ground
close to his works with the object of preventing their extension.*
The purchase of this large piece of ground, known as Camp Field, had
the effect of "plugging up" Matthew Murray for a time; and it
remained disused, except for the deposit of dead dogs and other
rubbish, for more than half a century. It has only been enclosed
during the present year, and now forms part of the works of Messrs.
Smith, Beacock, and Tannet, the eminent tool-makers.
His additions to the steam-engine were of great practical value, one
of which, the self-acting apparatus attached to the boiler for the
purpose of regulating the intensity of fire under it, and
consequently the production of steam, is still in general use. This
was invented by him as early as 1799. He also subsequently invented
the D slide valve, or at least greatly improved it, while he added to
the power of the air-pump, and gave a new arrangement to the other
parts, with a view to the simplification of the powers of the engine.
To make the D valve work efficiently, it was found necessary to form
two perfectly plane surfaces, to produce which he invented his
planing machine. He was also the first to adopt the practice of
placing the piston in a horizontal position in the common condensing
engine. Among his other modifications in the steam-engine, was his
improvement of the locomotive as invented by Trevithick; and it ought
to be remembered to his honour that he made the first locomotive that
regularly worked upon any railway.

This was the engine erected by him for Blenkinsop, to work the
Middleton colliery railway near Leeds, on which it began to run in
1812, and continued in regular use for many years. In this engine he
introduced the double cylinder--Trevithick's engine being provided
with only one cylinder, the defects of which were supplemented by the
addition of a fly-wheel to carry the crank over the dead points.

But Matthew Murray's most important inventions, considered in their
effects on manufacturing industry, were those connected with the
machinery for heckling and spinning flax, which he very greatly
improved. His heckling machine obtained for him the prize of the gold
medal of the Society of Arts; and this as well as his machine for wet
flax-spinning by means of sponge weights proved of the greatest
practical value. At the time when these inventions were made the flax
trade was on the point of expiring, the spinners being unable to
produce yarn to a profit; and their almost immediate effect was to
reduce the cost of production, to improve immensely the quality of
the manufacture, and to establish the British linen trade on a solid
foundation. The production of flax-machinery became an important
branch of manufacture at Leeds, large quantities being made for use
at home as well as for exportation, giving employment to an
increasing number of highly skilled mechanics.*
Among more recent improvers of flax-machinery, the late Sir Peter
Fairbairn is entitled to high merit: the work turned out by him being
of first-rate excellence, embodying numerous inventions and
improvements of great value and importance.
Mr. Murray's faculty for organising work, perfected by experience,
enabled him also to introduce many valuable improvements in the
mechanics of manufacturing. His pre-eminent skill in mill-gearing
became generally acknowledged, and the effects of his labours are
felt to this day in the extensive and still thriving branches of
industry which his ingenuity and ability mainly contributed to
establish. All the machine tools used in his establishment were
designed by himself, and he was most careful in the personal
superintendence of all the details of their construction. Mr. Murray
died at Leeds in 1826, in his sixty-third year.

We have not yet exhausted the list of claimants to the invention of
the Planing Machine, for we find still another in the person of
Richard Roberts of Manchester, one of the most prolific of modem
inventors. Mr. Roberts has indeed achieved so many undisputed
inventions, that he can readily afford to divide the honour in this
case with others. He has contrived things so various as the
self-acting mule and the best electro-magnet, wet gas-meters and dry
planing machines, iron billard-tables and turret-clocks, the
centrifugal railway and the drill slotting-machine, an apparatus for
making cigars and machinery for the propulsion and equipment of
steamships; so that he may almost be regarded as the Admirable
Crichton of modem mechanics.

Richard Roberts was born in 1789, at Carreghova in the parish of
Llanymynech. His father was by trade a shoemaker, to which he
occasionally added the occupation of toll-keeper. The house in which
Richard was born stood upon the border line which then divided the
counties of Salop and Montgomery; the front door opening in the one
county, and the back door in the other. Richard, when a boy, received
next to no education, and as soon as he was of fitting age was put to
common labouring work. For some time he worked in a quarry near his
father's dwelling; but being of an ingenious turn, he occupied his
leisure in making various articles of mechanism, partly for amusement
and partly for profit. One of his first achievements, while working
as a quarryman, was a spinning-wheel, of which he was very proud, for
it was considered "a good job." Thus he gradually acquired dexterity
in handling tools, and he shortly came to entertain the ambition of
becoming a mechanic.

There were several ironworks in the neighbour hood, and thither he
went in search of employment. He succeeded in finding work as a
pattern-maker at Bradley, near Bilston; under John Wilkinson, the
famous ironmaster--a man of great enterprise as well as mechanical
skill; for he was the first man, as already stated, that Watt could
find capable of boring a cylinder with any approach to truth, for the
purposes of his steam-engines. After acquiring some practical
knowledge of the art of working in wood as well as iron, Roberts
proceeded to Birmingham, where he passed through different shops,
gaining further experience in mechanical practice. He tried his hand
at many kinds of work, and acquired considerable dexterity in each.
He was regarded as a sort of jack-of-all-trades; for he was a good
turner, a tolerable wheel-wright, and could repair mill-work at a

He next moved northward to the Horsley ironworks, Tipton, where he
was working as a pattern-maker when he had the misfortune to be drawn
in his own county for the militia. He immediately left his work and
made his way homeward to Llanymynech, determined not to be a soldier
or even a militiaman. But home was not the place for him to rest in,
and after bidding a hasty adieu to his father, he crossed the country
northward on foot and reached Liverpool, in the hope of finding work
there. Failing in that, he set out for Manchester and reached it at
dusk, very weary and very miry in consequence of the road being in
such a wretched state of mud and ruts. He relates that, not knowing a
person in the town, he went up to an apple-stall ostensibly to buy a
pennyworth of apples, but really to ask the stall-keeper if he knew
of any person in want of a hand. Was there any turner in the
neighbourhood? Yes, round the corner. Thither he went at once, found
the wood-turner in, and was promised a job on the following morning.
He remained with the turner for only a short time, after which he
found a job in Salford at lathe and tool-making. But hearing that the
militia warrant-officers were still searching for him, he became
uneasy and determined to take refuge in London.

He trudged all the way on foot to that great hiding-place, and first
tried Holtzapffel's, the famous tool-maker's, but failing in his
application he next went to Maudslay's and succeeded in getting
employment. He worked there for some time, acquiring much valuable
practical knowledge in the use of tools, cultivating his skill by
contact with first-class workmen, and benefiting by the spirit of
active contrivance which pervaded the Maudslay shops. His manual
dexterity greatly increased, and his inventive ingenuity fully
stimulated, he determined on making his way back to Manchester,
which, even more than London itself, at that time presented abundant
openings for men of mechanical skill. Hence we find so many of the
best mechanics trained at Maudslay's and Clement's--Nasmyth, Lewis,
Muir, Roberts, Whitworth, and others--shortly rising into distinction
there as leading mechanicians and tool-makers.

The mere enumeration of the various results of Mr. Roberts's
inventive skill during the period of his settlement at Manchester as
a mechanical engineer, would occupy more space than we can well
spare. But we may briefly mention a few of the more important. In
1816, while carrying on business on his own account in Deansgate, he
invented his improved sector for correctly sizing wheels in blank
previously to their being cut, which is still extensively used. In
the same year he invented his improved screw-lathe; and in the
following year, at the request of the boroughreeve and constables of
Manchester, he contrived an oscillating and rotating wet gas meter of
a new kind, which enabled them to sell gas by measure. This was the
first meter in which a water lute was applied to prevent the escape
of gas by the index shaft, the want of which, as well as its great
complexity, had prevented the only other gas meter then in existence
from working satisfactorily. The water lute was immediately adopted
by the patentee of that meter. The planing machine, though claimed,
as we have seen, by many inventors, was constructed by Mr. Roberts
after an original plan of his own in 1817, and became the tool most
generally employed in mechanical workshops--acting by means of a
chain and rack--though it has since been superseded to some extent by
the planing machine of Whitworth, which works both ways upon an
endless screw. Improvements followed in the slide-lathe (giving a
large range of speed with increased diameters for the same size of
headstocks, &c.), in the wheel-cutting engine, in the scale-beam (by
which, with a load of 2 oz. on each end, the fifteen-hundredth part
of a grain could be indicated), in the broaching-machine, the
slotting-machine, and other engines.

But the inventions by which his fame became most extensively known
arose out of circumstances connected with the cotton manufactures of

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