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British Industrial History

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John Whitehurst

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John Whitehurst FRS (1713-1788) of Cheshire and Derby was a clockmaker and scientist, and made significant early contributions to geology.

He was an influential member of the Lunar Society.

1713 April 10th. Whitehurst was born in Congleton, Cheshire, to a clockmaker, the elder John Whitehurst.

1736 Moved to Derby.

1772 John Whitehust invented the "pulsation engine", a water-raising device that was the clear precursor of the hydraulic ram. It usefulness was considerably hampered by the need to work the stop valve manually. The Montgolfier Brothers effected a dramatic improvement in its performance and utility by making the stop valve self-acting.[1]. Whitehurst implemented his discovery at Oulton, Cheshire, in 1772, and described it in a letter to Dr. Franklin (Benjamin Franklin?). His description, with illustrations, was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, available online here[2]. In essence, the system comprised a source of water (a spring) and a reservoir at higher level, interconnected by pipework which included a non-return valve followed by a spherical lead air cushion vessel. A branch to the brewhouse was teed off the pipework upstream of the non-return valve (NRV), terminating at the kitchen tap. When the tap was closed, the momentum of the fast-moving column of water forced open the NRV, compressed the air in the vessel, and forced water up to the reservoir. In fact the pressure was sufficient to burst the air vessel a few months after installation.

1774 Obtained a post at the Royal Mint in London, receiving the title "Stamper of the Money Weights" in 1775.

1778 Published his theory on geological strata in An Inquiry into the Original State and Formation of the Earth.

1779 May 13th. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society .

1788 February 18th. Died

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'French Inventions of the Eighteenth Century' by Shelby T. McCloy, University of Kentucky Press, 1952
  2. [1] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Vol LXV, 1775