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British Industrial History

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Richard Lovell Edgeworth

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Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817) was an English writer and inventor.

1744 May 31st. Born in Pierrepont Street, Bath, England, he lived in Ireland. He was the father of Maria Edgeworth and 21 other children, (by his 4 wives), and grandfather to Francis Ysidro Edgeworth.

A Trinity College and Oxford alumnus, he is credited, among other inventions, for creating a machine to measure the size of a plot of land. He also made strides in the developing educational methods.

1764 Published letters about springs for carriages and his essay on this subject was published by the Royal Irish Academy in 1788.

1768 James Watt is told by William Small that Edgeworth has resolved to move a land carriage by steam [1]

1770(?) Patent for an eight-legged machine for travelling over rough country. 'I was riding one day in a country that was enclosed by many walls of an uncommon height; and upon its being asserted, that it would be impossible for a person to leap such walls, I offered a wager to produce a wooden horse, that should carry me safely over the highest wall in the country. It struck me that, if a machine were made with eight legs, four only of which should stand upon the ground at one time; if the remaining body were divided into two parts, sliding or rather rolling on cylinders, one of the parts, and the legs belonging to it, might in two efforts be projected over the wall by a person in the machine; and the legs belonging to this part might be let down to the ground, and then the other half o the machine might have its legs drawn up and be projected over the wall, and so on, alternately. The idea by degrees developed itself in my mind so as to make me perceive, that as one half of the machine was always a road for the other half, and that such a machine never rolled upon the ground, a carriage might be made which should carry a road for itself. It is already certain, that a carriage moving on an iron rail-way may be drawn with a fourth part of the force requisite to draw it on a common road. After having made a number of models of my machine, that should carry and lay down its own road, I took out a patent to secure to myself the principle; but the term of my patent has been long since expired, without my having been able to unite to my satisfaction in this machine strength with sufficient lightness, and with regular motion, so as to obtain the advantages I proposed. As an encouragement to perseverance, I assure my readers, that I never lost sight of this scheme during forty years; that I have made considerably above one hundred working models upon this principle, in a great variety of forms; and that, although I have not yet been able to accomplish my project, I am still satisfied that it is feasible. The experience, which I have acquired by this industry, has overpaid me for the trifling disappointments I have met with; and I have gained far more in amusement, than I have lost by unsuccessful labour. Indeed the only mortification that affected me was my discovering many years after I had taken out my patent, that the rudiments of my whole scheme were mentioned in an obscure memoir of the French Academy.'[2]

1805 Proposed the same plan for the transit of passengers. He urges that stage-coaches might be made to go at six miles an hour, and post-coaches and gentleman's travelling carriages at eight miles an hour, with one horse alone.

He also suggested that small stationary engines placed from distance to distance might be made, and by the use of endless chains draw the carriages, at a great diminution of horse-power.

1799 Advert for 'Practical Education' in two volumes by Maria Edgeworth and Richard Lovell Edgeworth, FRS, MRIA. [3]

He was a member of the Lunar Society

1817 June 13th. Died at Edgeworth's town in Ireland age 74, 'author of many interesting works, well-known in every part of the civilised world as a philanthropist and practical philosopher; and father of Miss Edgeworth whose genius has augmented the literary reputation of the age.' [4]

Had son William Edgeworth

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Timothy Hackworth and the Locomotive by Robert Young. Published 1923.
  2. "The Memoirs of R. L. Edgeworth, Esq." by R. L. & M. Edgeworth, pub. Richard Bentley, London, 1844, pp 106 - 107.
  3. The Times, Saturday, Aug 10, 1799
  4. The Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser, for Lancashire, Westmorland, &c., Saturday, July 19, 1817