Engineers

James Brindley
1716 - 1772
British canal builder.

He was the first to employ tunnels and aqueducts extensively, in order to reduce the number of locks on a direct-route canal. His 580 km / 360 miles of canals included the Bridgewater (Manchester-Liverpool) and Grand Union (Manchester-Potteries) canals.

Brindley was born near Buxton, Derbyshire. He set up a machine shop in Staffordshire and began constructing flint and silk mills. He was virtually illiterate and made all calculations in his head.

In 1759 Brindley was engaged by the Duke of Bridgewater to construct a canal to transport coal to Manchester from the duke's mines at Worsley. Brindley's revolutionary scheme for this included a subterranean channel and an aqueduct over the river Irwell. He constructed impervious banks by puddling clay, and the canal simultaneously acted as a mine drain. The success of this project established him as the leading canal builder in the UK.

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel
1806 - 1859
English Engineer
Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born in Portsmouth, England. He designed many bridges, tunnels, and viaducts and was one of the first to use compressed-air caissons to sink bridge foundations into deep riverbeds. He was also a railway builder and the designer of London's Paddington Station. His greatest work was the design and construction of three oceangoing steamships, each the first of its type. The paddle-steamer Great Western (1838) was the first transatlantic passenger steamship in regular service; it made the Bristol-New York crossing in a spectacular 15 days. The Great Britain (1845) was the first large screw-driven oceangoing steamship. The Great Eastern (1858), the largest steam vessel of its time, was designed to make the round trip to Australia without recoaling.

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William Caxton
1422-91

First English printer, born probably in Tenterden, Kent. He opened his own textile business and also translated into English a popular French romance, which he printed in Brugge as The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. It is famous as the first book printed in English. Caxton set up a printing press at Westminster Abbey. During his career Caxton printed nearly 100 publications, about 20 of which he also translated from French and Dutch. Among the more notable books from his press are The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde by the English poet Goeffrey Chaucer and Confessio Amantis by the English poet John Gower. Caxton also wrote prefaces and epilogues to many of the works he published, notably the preface to the prose epic Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory

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Sir Geoffrey de Havilland
1882-1965

Born the son of a clergyman, de Havilland was one of the most successful of all British aviation pioneers. Before his twentieth birthday he designed a motorcycle and after graduating from the Crystal Palace Engineering School began a short-lived career in the automotive industry. By 1908, he persuaded his grandfather to loan him one thousand pounds from which he could fund the construction of an aeroplane. Along with his assistant Frank Herle, de Havilland built an engine and a bi-plane, which were ready to test by 1909. The success of this machine, in which de Havilland taught himself to fly, brought him to the attention of the British military which bought his plane for four hundred pounds and offered him a job at HM Balloon Factory. He test-flew all of his own designs until 1918.
In September 1920, de Havilland founded his own company and decided to target the commercial market and reject, for the most part, the military one. His factory, first at Stag Lane, Edgeware and later at Hatfield, produced a steady stream of well-designed biplanes for the civil and commercial markets.

To conserve vital materials during World War II, de Havilland's company designed the Mosquito fighter bomber, using less important wood for it's structure. The 'Mossie' is considered by some to have been the best all-round aircraft of World War II. Not only was it twice as fast as any other bomber, it was even faster than the fastest British fighter.

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Timothy Hackworth
1786 - 1850

Originally a blacksmith but he became involved in locomotive production when he was recruited by Christopher Blackett in 1808 to work at Wylam Colliery. At Wylam Hackworth helped William Hedley produce the locomotive Puffing Billy.

In 1824 Edward Pease, George Stephenson and his son Robert Stephenson, formed a company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to make the locomotives for the Stockton & Darlington line. George Stephenson knew of Hackworth's work on the Puffing Billy and recruited him as superintendent of locomotive engine production. Hackworth worked with George Stephenson on Locomotion and was on board when it made its first public journey on 27th September, 1825.

In 1828 the boiler of the Locomotion exploded, killing the driver. She was rebuilt but did not perform well. The main problem was its inability to produce enough steam for a twenty-mile run. Timothy Hackworth took over responsibility for the Locomotion and enlarged the boiler and installed a return fire tube. This improved the performance of the locomotive but in 1827 was replaced by Hackworth's new locomotive, the Royal George. Hackworth's locomotive was mounted on six wheels, the cylinders were vertical, inverted and outside the boiler, and pistons and connecting rods drove the rear wheels.

In 1833 Hackworth decided to leave to form his own Soho locomotive building company at Shildon. The company was very successful and Hackworth lived in a fine house facing the Shildon. Railway Station (now the Timothy Hackworth Museum). Considered to be now an old fashioned designer, Hackworth concentrated on building slow, heavy freight locomotives.

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William Jessop
1745 -1814

British canal engineer who built the first canal in England entirely dependent on reservoirs for its water supply (the Grantham Canal 1793-97), and designed (with Thomas Telford) the 300 m / 1,000 ft long Pontcysyllte aqueduct over the river Dee. Jessop also designed the forerunner of the iron rail that later became universally adopted for railways.

Jessop was born in Devonport, Devon, and became a pupil of civil engineer John Smeaton, working on canals in England and Ireland first with him and then independently.
Jessop's first tunnel was the 2.8 km / 1.7-mile long Butterley Tunnel on the Cromford Canal he built in Derbyshire, and this led to the forming of the Butterley Iron Works in 1790, making rails and bridges.

Jessop was chief engineer 1793-1805 of the Grand Union Canal, which linked London and the Midlands over a distance of 150 km / 95 miles. He was also responsible for the Barnsley, Rochdale, and Trent navigation, and the Nottingham and Ellesmere canals.

Jessop was also chief engineer of the Surrey Iron Railway, built 1801-02. He worked on the construction of a large wetdock area on the Avon at Bristol, on the West India Docks and the Isle of Dogs Canal in London, on the harbours at Shoreham and Littlehampton, and on many other projects.

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Reginald Joseph Mitchell
1895 - 1937
Designer of the Supermarine Spitfire

Born in Talke Village near Stoke on Trent on 20 May 1895.
Leaving school in 1911 aged 16 he joined the locomotive engineering company, Kerr Stewart & Co of Stoke as an apprentice and upon completion of his apprenticeship he began working in the drawing office.
At night school however he continued his education studying engineering, mechanics and higher mathematics and with the use of a home based lathe he mastered practical engineering.
In 1917, at the age of 21, a partnership that was to have a significant effect upon his future was formed when he joined the Supermarine Aviation Works as a designer and by 1918, recognising the excellent skills that he had, Reginald Mitchell was appointed Chief Designer by Hubert Scott-Paine the Managing Director of Supermarine.
As seaplane manufacturers, Supermarine were attracted by the Schneider Trophy contests although until 1922 when Mitchell took over complete control of the design for that years entry, the competition was dominated by Italy, who having won the Trophy in 1920 and 1921 meant that a further win in 1922 would secure them the Trophy outright.
Mitchell's aircraft was the only challenger to the Italian's in the 1922 Schneider Trophy and flown by Captain Henri C Baird it won, also taking four new Marine World Records.

Mitchell was however a sick man. He underwent an operation to remove abdominal cancer late in 1933 and almost died. He was told that if their was no recurrence within five years he would likely survive but following that operation he never fully recovered his vitality and remained a weak man.

Over the next two years his health deteriorated and resisting all medical advice he drove himself hard, working not only on the Spitfire but also the Type 317 long range, four engined bomber.
On 11th June 1937 Reginald Joseph Mitchell died aged just 42..

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John Rennie
1761 - 1821

Born in East Linton, Scotland. After working as a millwright with Andrew Meikle he studied at Edinburgh University (1780-83). He was employed by Boulton & Watt for five years but in 1791 he moved to London where he started his own engineering company. Over the next few years he became a famous bridge-builder. This included Leeds Bridge, Southwark Bridge and Waterloo Bridge.

Rennie was also responsible for designing and building docks at Hull, Liverpool, Greenock and Leith and improving the harbours and dockyards at Portsmouth, Chatham and Plymouth. Rennie's last project was London Bridge but it was unfinished when he died in 1821. The bridge was completed by his son, John Rennie. .

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The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls
1877-1910

The son of a wealthy British peer, Rolls might have led a carefree life often associated with the young Edwardian aristocracy. Instead, he combined an adventurous spirit with an education and thus made a useful contribution to his nation.

Rolls went to Cambridge University where he earned a BA, and later MA in engineering. His love for speed led him to become a racing cyclist. Later he turned to racing automobiles along with his friend, Moore-Brabazon. In 1896 Rolls joined with other auto enthusiasts to break a law which forbade automobile travel at over 4mph (6.4km/hr). Their defiance led to a new speed limit which at 12 mph (19.3 km/hr) was 200% faster than had previously been allowed.

In 1901 Rolls, having become an aeronaut, helped found the Aero Club. Two years later he entered an automobile sales venture in London selling expensive French cars. One day a friend introduced him to F. H. Royce who was just beginning to build quality automobiles. Royce, who had worked hard his entire life, had little in common with Rolls yet they still became friends. In 1904 they agreed that Royce would build cars and Rolls would sell them. Rolls-Royce was born.

Rolls continued to fly balloons when he wasn't demonstrating his soon-to-be-famous products. His balloon flying led to aeroplane flying and in 1910 he received certificate number 2 from the Royal Aero Club (Royal as of that year). Later in the same year he became the first man to fly non-stop across the English Channel both ways, but his triumph was short lived. In July 1910 he was killed when his French-built Wright biplane broke up in mid-air. Though he came down from only 20 feet, he cracked his skull. He became Britain`s first aircraft fatality.

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Sir (Frederick) Henry Royce
1863 -1933

Although he was to rise and become the producer of some of the most luxurious cars in the world, Royce began life in poverty. Born in Alwalton, England, he was orphaned at age nine. He struggled through a variety of jobs before being apprenticed to a locomotive works. There he became an expert machinist noted for his dedication to unequalled precision. At seventeen he left a subsequent job with a train ticket that had taken him several months to save for, and travelled to London. By day he worked at an electricity generating station, while at night he went to school. Three years passed before he decided to go to Manchester to open his own shop to produce dynamos and motors. Noted for their high quality, the Royce products sold well and his company grew. In 1902 he bought a second hand Decauville automobile hoping to enjoy leisurely weekends in the countryside. Instead, the car produced an endless series of breakdowns. He decided he could build a better one. In less than a year he had built a car that was so good that he decided to market it. In 1904 he entered into partnership with Rolls to sell automobiles, thus Rolls-Royce was formed. In 1906 Royce introduced the Silver Ghost, a car which was to become known as the greatest car in the world.

Royce's reputation as a leading engineer led the Royal Navy to contact him during World War I with an order to build Renault-designed aero-engines. Royce scoffed at what he considered an inferior design and said he would come up with a better one. The result was the Eagle, a twenty-litre engine which produced 225hp. This engine, and it's derivatives the Falcon and the Hawk, were so successful that by the end of World War I Rolls-Royce supplied 60% of all British built engines.

Royce stayed actively involved with the design of his company's engines up until his death in 1933. Before he died, he dictated what was to become known as the Rolls-Royce bible. It was a set of guidelines for future generations of Rolls-Royce engineers to follow. Even today, it is a closely guarded industrial secret.

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George Stephenson
1781-1848

British inventor and engineer, who built the first practical railroad locomotive. Stephenson was born in Wylam, near Newcastle. During his youth he worked as a fireman and later as an engineer in the coal mines of Newcastle. He devised one of the first miner's safety lamps but shared credit for this invention with the British inventor Sir Humphry Davy, who developed a similar lamp at about the same time. Stephenson's early efforts in locomotive design were confined to constructing locomotives to haul loads in coal mines, and in 1823 he established a factory at Newcastle for their manufacture. In 1829 he designed a locomotive known as the Rocket, which hauled both freight and passengers at a greater speed than had any locomotive constructed up to that time. The success of the Rocket greatly stimulated the subsequent construction of locomotives and the laying of railroad lines.

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Thomas Telford
1757-1834

Thomas Telford, the son of a shepherd, was born in Westerkirk, Scotland in 1757. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a stonemason. He worked for a time in Edinburgh and in 1792 he moved to London where he was involved in building additions to Somerset House. Two years later he found work at Portsmouth dockyard.

In 1787 he became surveyor of public works for Shropshire. By this time Telford had established a good reputation as an engineer and in 1790 was given the task of building a bridge over the River Severn at Montford. This was followed by a canal that linked the ironworks and collieries of Wrexham with Chester and Shrewsbury. This involved building an aqueduct over the River Dee. On the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Telford used a new method of construction consisting of troughs made from cast-iron plates and fixed in masonry.

After the completion of the Ellesmere Canal Telford moved back to Scotland where he took control of the building of Caledonian Canal. Other works by Telford include the Menai Suspension Bridge (1819-1826) and the Katherine's Docks (1824-1828) in London.

Telford was also an important road builder. He was responsible for rebuilding the Shrewsbury to Holyhead road and the North Wales coast road between Chester and Bangor. During his life Telford built more than 1,000 miles of road, including the main road between London and Holyhead. Thomas Telford died in 1834.

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Richard Trevithick
1771 - 1833

British mechanical engineer and inventor, and one of the pioneers of railroad locomotion. Trevithick was born in Illogan, near Camborne-Redruth. In 1796 he exhibited models of high-pressure, noncondensing steam engines, which were an improvement on the low-pressure engines developed by the Scottish inventor James Watt. On Christmas Eve, 1801, Trevithick put into operation the first steam-propelled vehicle ever to carry passengers. In 1804 he made the first application of steam to the hauling of loads on a railway when his steam locomotive carried ten tons of iron about 15 km (about 9.5 mi), from Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon. His success led to the construction of further steam locomotives operating on rails. He is considered by many the real inventor of the locomotive steam engine.

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James Watt
1736 - 1819
Scottish Engineer
James Watt was born in Greenock, Scotland. He moved to Glasgow in 1754 to learn the trade of instrument maker. While he was employed on surveys for canals, he was also studying steam technology.

In 1763, while repairing a Newcomen engine, he found he could greatly improve the machine. His invention of the 'separate condenser' and the introduction of crank movements could make steam engines more efficient. After other improvements, he went into partnership with Matthew Boulton, and the new steam engine was manufactured at Birmingham in 1774. Several other inventions followed, including the double-acting engine, the centrifugal governor for automatic speed control, and the pressure gauge.

With this invention he provided one of the most essential components of early industrial revolution. The term horse-power was first used by him, and the power unit, the watt, is named in his honor.

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Sir Joseph Whitworth
1803 - 1887

The son of a Congregational minister, was born in Stockport in 1803. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a Derbyshire cotton-spinner. Whitworth studied the machinery in the factory and was critical of the poor standards of workmanship and this inspired him to become an engineer.

In 1821 Whitworth moved to Manchester where he found work as a mechanic. Four years later he moved to London where he trained under Henry Maudslay. After returning to Manchester in 1833 he set up his own machine shop. Over the next few years he built a successful knitting machine (1835) and a horse-drawn mechanical roadsweeper (1842). Probably his most important innovation was to devised a machine capable of measuring to an accuracy of one hundredth-thousandth of an inch.

By the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851 Whitworth had acquired a world-wide reputation of producing machines of unrivaled quality and precision. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, each workshop used its own sizes for the equipment it made. By 1860 Whitworth's specifications for sizes of screw threads was generally accepted throughout Britain.

Whitworth was deeply concerned with working class poverty and donating large sums of money to educational organisations. He also supplied the funds for engineering scholarships research at technical colleges.

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