Joseph Whitworth

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Sir Joseph Whitworth, 1st Baronet (21 December 1803 – 22 January 1887) was an English engineer and entrepreneur.



Early life

Whitworth was born in Stockport, the son of Charles Whitworth, a teacher and Congregational minister, and at an early age developed an interest in machinery. He was educated at Idle, near Leeds; his aptitude for mechanics became apparent when he began work for his uncle.[1]


After leaving school Whitworth became an indentured apprentice to an uncle who was a cotton spinner in Derbyshire. This was for a four year term after which he worked for another four years as a mechanic in a factory in Manchester. He then moved to London where he found employment working for Henry Maudslay, the inventor of the screw-cutting lathe, alongside such people as James Nasmyth (inventor of the steam hammer) and Richard Roberts.

Whitworth developed great skill as a mechanic while working for Maudslay, developing various precision machine tools and also introducing a box casting scheme for the iron frames of machine tools that simultaneously increased their rigidity and reduced their weight.

Whitworth also worked for Holtzapffel & Co (makers of ornamental lathes) and Joseph Clement. While at Clement's workshop he helped with the manufacture of Charles Babbage's calculating machine, the Difference engine. He returned to Openshaw, Manchester, in 1833 to start his own business manufacturing lathes and other machine tools, which became renowned for their high standard of workmanship. Whitworth is attributed with the introduction of the thou in 1844.[2] In 1853, along with his lifelong friend, artist and art educator George Wallis (1811–1891), he was appointed a British commissioner for the New-York International Exhibition. They toured around industrial sites of several American States, and the result of their journey was a report 'The Industry of the United States in Machinery, Manufactures and Useful and Applied Arts, compiled from the Official Reports of Messrs Whitworth and Wallis, London, 1854.'

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