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British Industrial History

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William Brownrigg

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William Brownrigg (1711-1800), physician and chemist

1771 born at High Close Hall, Cumberland, on 24 March, the eldest of seven children of George Brownrigg (d. c.1760).

1736 Graduated as a physician from the University of Leiden

1737 Brownrigg settled in Whitehaven, Cumberland,

1741 Married Mary (1721–1794), daughter of John Spedding of Whitehaven.

Brownrigg explored the nature of mine gases, which caused explosions, fires, and bad air that killed, maimed, and debilitated miners. This work, the first of its type, resulted in four papers which were read before the Royal Society

1741–2 Presented papers at the Royal Society about his investigation of mine gas which was the cause of much injury and death

1742 elected fellow of the Royal Society

1743 Sir James Lowther, owner of the Whitehaven coalmines, paid half of the cost of building a laboratory for Brownrigg. Brownrigg learned to predict mine explosions, developed a device for mine lighting, and outlined a history of coalmines.

In addition to his work on mine gases, Brownrigg engaged in a range of scientific enquiries with practical import.

1748 Published a book on the processes and economics of salt making

Issued the first scientific report on the properties of platinum, based on experiments made by Charles Wood

1756 Improved the efficiency of steam engines by agitating the water in the boiler and by superheating.

Invested in a rope factory, iron mining and refining, including the Cyfarthfa Ironworks in partnership with his wife's cousin Anthony Bacon, timber production, turnpike construction, farms and farm improvements.

c.1770 Partial retirement

1800 Died


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of William Brownrigg, ODNB [1]