Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Benjamin Martin

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Benjamin Martin (Bap. 1705-1782) optical instrument maker and lecturer on science

c.1730 Established a school at Chichester

1735 Published "the Philosophical Grammar"

1737 Produced a complementary work on non-mathematical subjects, "Bibliotheca technologica", funded by 564 subscribers

1742 Martin moved to Reading, Berkshire. He earnt a living by giving lectures and demonstrations on Newtonian experimental philosophy

1756 Martin settled in Fleet Street, London, near where the Royal Society then had its premises, and began to trade as an optician and instrument maker. Initially for his own use, and then for general sale, he devised "Visual Glasses", and used them for his shop sign. Unlike conventional spectacles, they had apertures partially blanked off by an annulus of horn, lenses tilted inwards, and glass tinted violet or green. Derided by established opticians, they nevertheless proved popular and were eventually copied by other traders.

1757 Acquired the globe plates and tools of the late John Senex FRS (d. 1740). Globe manufacture and sale became an important part of his activities, but he also dealt in all types of scientific instruments, primarily as a retailer and wholesaler, which he advertised through his catalogue and published tracts, another innovation.

1758 he produced "New Principles of Geography and Navigation"

1758 His son, Joshua Lover Martin, became an apprentice in the business

1766 he obtained his only patent, for a new form of bilge-pump but the Admiralty rejected it.

He published "The New Art of Surveying by the Goniometer"

1770 reported a new form of pendulum and escapement in "The Description and Use of a Table Clock".

1778 Changed the firm's name to trade as Benjamin Martin & Son, with the involvement of his son and his wife

1782 The business failed. Benjamin became bankrupt and died shortly afterwards.

Charles Tulley is reputed to have purchased his tools in 1784.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of Benjamin Martin, ODNB