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British Industrial History

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Peter Nicholson

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Influential mathematician and architect.

Born 20 July 1765 at Prestonkirk, East Lothian

Died 18 June 1844, aged 78, at Carlisle, Cumbria

The Wikipedia entry provides a good account of his life and work.

1840: 'Great North of England Railway. The keystone of the last unfinished arch of the Great North of England Railway Company's bridge, over the river Tees, at Croft, was fixed in its place on Thursday, the 16th instant, by G. H. Wilkinson, Esq., of Harperley Park, chairman of the directors, in the presence of several directors and numerous spectators. The foundation stone of the bridge was laid by Mrs. Wilkinson, the lady of the chairman, in the month of May, 1838, and the bridge is now rapidly approaching its completion. Mr. Wilkinson, after laying the stone, made an able address to the bystanders, and observed that the completion of the bridge was an earnest to the shareholders and the public of the speedy completion of the great national undertaking ot which it formed a part. The directors, engineers, and other officers of the company present at the ceremony, were afterwards entertained at the Spa Hotel, Croft, by Mr. Welch, of Newcastle, the engineer of the bridge. Among the company present was Mr. Peter Nicholson, of Newcastle, the discoverer of tbe spiral principle on which the skew bridge was built, who expressed himself much gratified by the successful manner in which his theory had been carried into practice, this bridge being of great magnitude, and askew at an angle of 50.- York Herald.'[1]

1844 'THE LATE PETER NICHOLSON.- We have this week have to record, in our obituary, the death of Mr Peter Nicholson, the celebrated architect, which melancholy event took place in this city [Carlisle] on Tuesday morning last. He was well known in the scientific world, having, by his numerous works, contributed more to the extension of science and the useful arts than perhaps any other man in this country. He was born at Haddington, of respectable parents, and after receiving the rudiments of his education at the parish school, was apprenticed by his father, who was a stonemason, to a cabinet-maker in the village of Linton. Here his natural abilities soon began to display themselves, and by the time he had completed his apprenticeship he had made, during his leisure hours, considerable proficiency in the science of mathematics. He resided in Edinburgh for some time afterwards, and thence proceeded to London, where, whilst working as a journeyman, he opened an evening school, in which he taught to his fellow-workmen the application of geometry to joinery and carpentry. He has long been before the world as an author, having published many of the most popular works of the day, on mathematics architecture, &c. So intense, however, was his devotion to these pursuits, that he paid but little attention to business matters; and the profits realised by his works enriched not him but his publishers. A meeting was held in Newcastle in 1834, to raise a fund to purchase an annuity for him in his declining years; and a subscription was entered into; but from some cause or other with which we are unacquainted the project was abandoned, and we believe Mr Nicholson never received any of the advantages which it seemed at first to hold out. He died in his 78th year, after a life of usefulness devoted to science and the arts of his country. Carlisle Journal.'[2]

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Sources of Information

  1. Carlisle Journal - Saturday 25 April 1840
  2. Caledonian Mercury - Monday 24 June 1844