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JOHN WILKINSON (1728-1808)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 648 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHN WILKINSON (1728-1808), " the great Staffordshire iron-master," was born in 1728 at Clifton, Cumberland, where his father had risen from day labourer to be overlooker in an iron furnace. A box-iron, patented by his father, but said to have been invented by the son, helping laundresses to gratify the frilled taste of the dandies of the day, was the beginning of their fortunes. This they made at Blackbarrow, near Furness. When he was about twenty, John moved to Staffordshire, and built, at Bilston, the first furnace there, and, after many exPeriments, succeeded in utilizing coal instead of wood-charcoal in puddling and smelting. The father, who now had works at Bersham, near Chester, was again joined by his son, who constructed a new boring machine, of an accuracy heretofore unequalled. James Watt found that the work of this machine exactly filled his requirements for his " fire-engine " for cylinders bored with greater precision. Wilkinson, who now owned the Bersham works, resolved to start the manufacture of wrought iron at Broseley on a larger scale, and the first engine made by Boulton and Watt was for him to blow the bellows there. Heretofore bellows were worked by a water wheel or, when power failed, by horses. His neighbours in the business, who were contemplating installing Newcomen engines, waited to see how his would turn out. Great care was taken in all its parts, and Watt himself set it up early in 1776. Its success made thereputation of Boulton and Watt in the Midland counties. Wilkinson now found he had the power alike for the nicest and the most stupendous operations. The steam cylinder suggested to him the plan of producing blast now in use. He was near coal; he surrounded himself with capable men, whom he fully trusted; he made a good article, and soon obtained large orders and prospered. In 1786 he was making 32-pounders, howitzers, swivels, mortars and shells for government. The difficulty of getting barges to carry his war material down the Severn led him, in 1787, to construct the first iron barge—creating a wonderful sensation among owners and builders. Wilkinson taught the French the art of boring cannon from the solid, and cast all this tubes, cylinders and iron work required for the Paris water-works, I long one. In Shakespearian characters he was- very popular the most formidable undertaking of the day. He also erected in the provinces. In 1766 he became a partner of Joseph Baker the first steam engine in France, in connexion with these works. in the management of several Yorkshire theatres, and sole \Vilkinson is said to have anticipated by many years the manager after his partner's death in 1770 of these and others. introduction of the hot blast for furnaces, but the leathern pipes, In this capacity he was both liberal and successful. He died then used, scorched, and it was not a success. His were the first on the 16th of November 1803. coal-cutting machines. He proposed and cast the first iron bridge. See his Memoirs (4 vols., 1790) and The Wandering Patentee (4 It connected Broseley and Madeley, across the Severn, and its vols., 1795)• span of too ft. 6 in. was considered a triumphal wonder. Wilkin- WILL, in philosophy. The " Problem of Freedom " provides son was now a man of great means and greater influence. He in reality a common title under which are grouped difficulties issued tokens of copper, bearing his likeness and on the reverse and questions of varying and divergent interest and character. a forge and tools of the trade, silver coins for 3S. 6d., and also These difficulties arise quite naturally from the obligation, pound notes, as other tradesmen of that day did. He never which metaphysicians, theologians, moral philosophers, men wrote a letter without using the word iron, indeed he was iron- of science, and psychologists alike recognize, to give an account, mad, and provided by will that he should be buried in an iron consistent with their theories, of the relation of man's power coffin, preferably in his garden at Castle Head, near Lindal. He of deliberate and purposive activity to the rest of the universe, died on the 14th of July 1808. In the main, no doubt, the problem is a metaphysical problem, Wilkinson was twice married without issue. His very large and has its origin in the effort to reconcile that belief in man's property was frittered away during a lawsuit brought by a freedom which is regarded by the unsophisticated moral con-nephew against the illegitimate children whom he had named as sciousness as indisputable, with a belief in a universe governed by his heirs. It was carried from various courts in the kingdom to rational and necessary laws. But the historical origin of the the House of Lords and then to the Court of Chancery. Here questions at issue is to be sought rather in theology than in Lord Eldon decided for the defendants, thus reversing all previous metaphysics, while the discovery made from time to time by decisions taken upon the law of the case. men of science of the inapplicability of natural laws or modes
End of Article: JOHN WILKINSON (1728-1808)
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