Clio Edition 4 - page 14

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Sir Joseph Whitworth served as a mechanical engineer at the height of the
Industrial Revolution. He is best known for devising the British Standard
Whitworth System (BSW) that essentially pioneered mass production in
modern British industry, as it was the first time widespread techniques were
being applied to all aspects of industry such as marine engineering.
Joseph’s plaque is located in Derbyshire. Following his apprenticeship, he
moved to London where he developed his mechanical skills alongside James
Nasmyth (inventor of the steam hammer) and Henry Maudslay, the inventor
of the screw-cutting lathe and the man who taught Whitworth the skills
of engineering for the outset of his career. Whitworth had researched the
standardization of gauges for many years, and in the 1840s, concluded that
gauges graduated to a fixed scale should be used as a constant measure. This
discovery would enable any manufacturer to mass-produce interchangeable
machine parts at much lower costs. From here, it was a short step to standard
screw threads, the invention for which Whitworth is best known.
Whitworth’s standard screw system, invented in 1841, specified a thread
angle of 55 degrees. Whitworth’s uniform system for screw threads was the
first of its kind, and was highly crucial in improving accuracy standards for
the majority of Victorian machinery. Despite Whitworth being a pacifist, his
system was adopted by several industries including the British Navy for the
production of gunboats in the Crimean War. By 1858, it was used universally.
It was at the Great Exhibition in 1851 that Whitworth was recognized as the
foremost mechanical engineer of the time, winning more awards then any
other exhibitor throughout the whole event.
Blue Plaques:
Sir John Whitworth
Ellena Dracou found the Blue Plaque of someone who had a large impact on British
history but is perhaps not as well known as he should be.
Joseph Whitworth’s
blue plaque in
Derbyshire
An etching of Sir
Joseph Whitworth
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