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OF THE

FRANKLIN INSTITUTE

OF THE

State of Pennsylvania;

DEVOTED TO THE

MECHANIC ARTS, MANUFACTURES, GENERAL SCIENCE,

AND THE RECORDING OF

AMERICAN AND OTHER PATENTED INVENTIONS.

EDITED

BY THOMAS P. JONES, M. D.

SUPERINTENDENT OF THE PATENT OFFICE AT WASHINGTON, PROFESSOR OF CHEMISTRY
IN THE MEDICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE COLUMBIAN COLLEGE, AND LATE

PROFESSOR OF MECHANICS IN THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE.

Vol. III.

NEW SERIES.

PHILADELPHIA:
PUBLISHED BY THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE, AT THEIR HALL;
PBIEY THOMPSON, WASHINGTON CITY ; G. & C. CARVILL, NEW YORK; AND

MONROE & FRANCIS, BOSTON.

J. HARDING, PRINTER.

1829

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JOURNAL

OF THE

FRANKLIN INSTITUTE

OF THE

State of Pennsylvania;

DEVOTED TO THE

MECHANIC ARTS, MANUFACTURES, GENERAL SCIENCE,

AND THE RECORDING OF

AMERICAN AND OTHER PATENTED INVENTIONS.

JANUARY, 1829.

An account of Mr. James Brindley, the late celebrated Civil

Engineer. * James BRINDLEY was born at Tunsted, in the parish of Wormhill, Derbyshire, in 1716. His father was a small freeholder, who dissipated his property in company and field amusements, and neglected his family. In consequence, young Brindley was destitute of even the commou rudiments of education, and till the age

of seventeen, was casually employed in rustic labours. At that period, he bound himself to one Bennet, a mill-wright, at Macclesfield, in Cheshire, where his mechanical genius presently developed itself. The master being frequently absent, the apprentice was often left for weeks together, to finish pieces of work, concerning which he had received no instruction; and Bennet, on his return, was often greatly astonished to see improvements in various pieces of mechanisin, of which he had no previous conception. It was not long before the millers discovered Brindley's merits, and preferred him, in the execution of their orders, to the master or any other workman. At the expiration of his servitude, Bennet being grown into years, he took the management of the business upon himself; and by his skill and industry, contributed to support his old master and his family in a comfortable manner.

In process of time, Brindley set up as a mill-wright, on his own account, and by a number of new and ingenious contrivances, greatly improved that branch of mechanics, and acquired a high reputation in the neighbourhood. His faine extending to a wider circle, he was

From the late Dr. John Aikin’s “ Description of the country round Manchester." Vol. III.-No.1.- JANUARY, 1829.

1

employed, in 1752, to erect a water-engine, at Clifton, in Lancashire, for the purpose of draining some coal-mines. Here he gave an essay of his abilities, in a kind of work for which he was, afterwards, so much distinguished, driving a tunnel under ground, through a rock nearly six hundred yards in length, by which water was brought out of the Irwell, for the purpose of turning a wheel fixed thirty feet below the surface of the earth. In 1755, he was employed to execute the larger wheels for a silk-mill, at Congleton; and another person who was engaged to make other parts of the machinery, and to superintend the whole, proving incapable of completing the work, the business was entirely cominitted to Brindley; who not only executed the original plan in a masterly manner, but made the addition of many curious and valuable improvements, as well in the construction of the engine itself, as in the method of making the wheels and pinions belonging to it. About this time, too, the mills for grinding Aints in the Staffordshire potteries, received various improvements from his ingenuity.

in the year 1756, he undertook to erect a steam engine, on a new plan, at Newcastle-under-line; and he was, for a time, very intent upon a variety of contrivances for improving this useful piece of mechanism. But from these designs he was, happily for the public, called away to take the lead in what the event has proved to be a national concern of capital importance--the projecting the system of canal navigation. The duke of Bridgewater, who had formed his design of carrying a canal from his coal works, at Worsley, to Manchester, was induced, by the reputation of Mr. Brindley, to consult him on the execution of it; and having the sagacity to perceive, and strength of mind to confide in, the original and commanding abilities of this self-taught genius, he committed to bim the management of the arduous undertaking Mr. Brindley, from the very first, adopting those leading principles in the projecting of these works, which he ever afterwards adhered to, and in which he has been imitated by all succeeding engineers. To preserve as much as possible the level of his canals, and to avoid the mixture and interference of all natural streams, were objects at which he constantly aimed. To accomplish these, no labours and expense were spared; and his genius seemed to delight in overcoming all obstacles to them, by the discovery of new and extraordinary contrivances.

The most experienced engineers upon former systeins, were amazed and confounded at his projects of aqueduct bridges over navigable rivers, mounds across deep vallies, and subterraneous tunnels; nor could they believe in the practicability of some of these schemes, till they saw them effected. In the executioị, the ideas he followed were all his own; and the minutest, as well as the greatest, of the expedients he employed, bore the stamp of originality. Every man of genius is an enthusiast. Mr. Brindley was an enthusiast in favour of the superiority of canal navigation, above those of rivers; and this triumph of art over nature, led him to view, with a sort of contempt, the winding stream in which the lover of rural beauty so much delights. This sentiment he is said to have expressed in a

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striking manner, at an examination before a committee of the house of commons, when, on being asked, after he had made some contemptuous remarks relative to rivers, what he conceived they were created for:-he answered, “ to feed navigable canals.” A direct rivalry with the navigation of the Irwell and the Mersey, was the bold enterprise of his first great canal; and since the success of that design, it has become common all over the kingdom, to see canals accompanying, with insulting parallel, the course of navigable rivers.

After the successful execution of the duke of Bridgewater's canal to the Mersey, Mr. Brindley was employed in the revived design of carrying a canal through the counties of Chester and Stafford. This undertaking commenced in the year 1766; and from the great ideas it opened to the mind of its conductor, of a scheme of inland navigation, which should connect all the internal parts of England with each other, and with the principal sea-ports, by means of branches from this main stem, he gave it the emphatical name of the Grand Trunk. In executing this, he was called upon to employ all the resources of his invention, on account of the inequality and various Bature of the ground to be cut through; in particular, the hill of Harecastle, which was only to be passed by a tunnel of great length, bored through strata of different consistency, and some of them mere quicksand, proved to be a most difficult, as well as expensive obstacle, which, however, he completely surmounted. While this was carrying on, a branch from the Grand Trunk, to join the Severn near Bewdley, was committed to his management, and was finished in 1772. He also executed a canal from Droitwich to the Severn; and he planned the Coventry canal, and for some time superintended its execution, but on account of some difference in opinion, he resigned that office. The Chesterfield canal, was the last undertaking of the kind which he conducted, but he only lived to finish some miles of it. There was, however, scarcely any design of canal navigation set on foot in the kingdom, during the latter years of his life, in which he was not consulted, and the plan of which he did not either entirely form, or revise and improve. All these it is needless to enumerate; but as an instance of the vastness of his ideas, it may be mentioned, that on planning a canal from Liverpool, to join that of the duke of Bridgewater's, at Runcorn, it was part ef his intention to carry it by an aqueduct bridge across the Mersey, at Runcorn-gap, a place where a tide sometimes rising fourteen feet, rushes with great rapidity througlia sudden contraction of the channel. As a mechanic and engineer, he was likewise consulted on other occasions; as with respect to draining of the low lands in different parts of Lincolnshire, and the isle of Ely, and to the cleansing of the docks of Liverpool, from mud. He pointed out a method, which has been successfully practised, of building sea-walls without mortar; and he was the author of a very ingenious improvement of the machine for drawing water out of mines, by the contrivance of a gaining and losing bucket.

The intensity of application, which all his various and complicated employments required, probably shortened his days, as the number

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