Industrial Biography: Iron Workers and Tool Makers

Samuel Smiles (1812 - 1904)

Short Biographies of some of the most influential engineers who developed the modern manufacturing methods behind the Industrial Revolution.

Engineers and designers tend to be fairly anonymous figures in history – content to make things rather than write about them. At the time Smiles wrote “Industrial Biography” the whole of British society was undergoing massive changes driven by developments in the High Technology of the day – Mechanical Engineering.

Much of the knowledge we have of the brilliant mechanical engineers who developed the iron and machine tools of the nineteenth century was gathered and recorded by Smiles from the men themselves and from their students. Without Bramah, Maudslay, Nasmyth , and others Brunel would not have been able to build his railways, bridges and steamships. And many of their machine tools are still in use 200 years later: my own lathe looks very similar to one made by Maudslay in 1800 and almost identical to Whitworth lathes from the 1830s.

Smiles’ most famous work is “Self Help” published in 1859: the book that defined the Liberal Victorian response to the poor. In "Industrial Biography", written only four years later, the virtues of thrift, hard work, and self-improvement are woven through the stories of the great mechanical engineers, most of whom raised themselves from very humble beginnings. In some ways Industrial Biography and the other engineering biographies published by Smiles can be seen as examples to illustrate “Self Help”. (Summary by Clive Catterall)

Genre(s): Biography & Autobiography

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 00 Preface Clive Catterall
Play 01 Iron and Civilisation - Part 1 Clive Catterall
Play 02 Iron and Civilisation - Part 2 Clive Catterall
Play 03 Early English Iron Manufacture Clive Catterall
Play 04 Iron Smelting by Pit Coal - Dud Dudley Clive Catterall
Play 05 Andrew Yarranton Clive Catterall
Play 06 Coalbrookdale Iron Works - Part 1 Clive Catterall
Play 07 Coalbrookdale Iron Works - Part 2 Clive Catterall
Play 08 The Invention of Cast Steel - Benjamin Huntsman Clive Catterall
Play 09 The Inventions of Henry Cort Clive Catterall
Play 10 The Scotch Iron Manufacture - Dr Roebuck, David Mushet Clive Catterall
Play 11 The Invention of the Hot Blast - James Beaumont Neilson Clive Catterall
Play 12 Mechanical Inventions and Inventors Clive Catterall
Play 13 Joseph Bramah Clive Catterall
Play 14 Henry Maudslay - Part 1 Clive Catterall
Play 15 Henry Maudslay - Part 2 Clive Catterall
Play 16 Joseph Clement - Part 1 Clive Catterall
Play 17 Joseph Clement - Part 2 Clive Catterall
Play 18 Fox of Derby, Murray of Leeds, Roberts and Whitworth of Manchester Clive Catterall
Play 19 James Nasmyth - Part 1 Clive Catterall
Play 20 James Nasmyth - Part 2 Clive Catterall
Play 21 William Fairbairn - Part 1 Clive Catterall
Play 22 William Fairbairn - Part 2 Clive Catterall