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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/568

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

SKETCH OF SIR JOSEPH WHITWORTH.

THE value of Sir Joseph Whitworth's work, and the extent to which it has entered into common life, are exemplified whenever a screw-tap is fitted to a bolt. A biographical sketch of him, published on the occasion of his death, designated his name as the greatest of our time in mechanical engineering, and characterized him as a person of remarkable individuality and one whose efforts have left a permanent impress upon the workshops of the whole civilized world.

Joseph Whitworth was born at Stockport, England, on the 21st of December, 1803, and died at Monte Carlo, January 22, 1887. He was taught by his father, who was a schoolmaster, and at a school at Idle, near Leeds, till he was fourteen years old, when he was placed with his uncle, a cotton-spinner in Derbyshire. The operations of manufacturing were not to his taste, but he soon made himself at home with the machinery of the establishment, and in time became its practical managing engineer. After six years of this work he desired to find a wider field for the development of his mechanical abilities, and, although the value of his services was appreciated by his uncle, he ran away to Manchester, where he spent four years in acquiring a practical knowledge of the manufacture of cotton-machinery. Applications of steam-power were still new and crude, and tools adapted to use in connection with the new force were imperfect or wanting. In order to qualify himself to supply the need thus indicated, he went to London and sought employment in the best shops—Maudsley's, Holtzapfel's, and Clement's. Maudsley, recognizing his skill, took him into his own private room, and placed him next to his best workman. He worked in off-hours at his own devices, and in this way completed the true plane, an instrument which conferred the power of making surfaces for all kinds of sliding tools, by which the resistance arising from friction was reduced to its smallest figure, and of which he published a description in 1840. He showed his device and its operation to his fellow-workman, Hampson, who had been accustomed to ridicule his experiments, but now testified his appreciation of the work by saying, "You've done it." At Clement's he worked upon Babbage's calculating machine, which he always maintained would have operated perfectly if it had been gone on with; and here also he learned to make a true screw.

In 1833 Mr. Whitworth engaged in manufacturing on his own account at Manchester, establishing himself in one room and putting out the sign, "Joseph Whitworth, tool-maker." It was in the infancy of extensive manufacturing, and there were no fixed standards of adjustment, no guarantees for accuracy of work, or attempt at symmetry or uniformity in any respect, but each maker was a rule to himself.