Pickard, James

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fl. c. 1780 Birmingham, England
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English patentee of the application of the crank to steam engines.
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James Pickard, the Birmingham button maker, also owned a flour mill at Snow Hill, in 1780, where Matthew Wasborough installed one of his rotative engines with ratchet gear and a flywheel. In August 1780, Pickard obtained a patent (no. 1263) for an application to make a rotative engine with a crank as well as gearwheels, one of which was weighted to help return the piston in the atmospheric cylinder during the dead stroke and overcome the dead centres of the crank. Wasborough's flywheel made the counterweight unnecessary, and engines were built with this and Pickard's crank. Several Birmingham business people seem to have been involved in the patent, and William Chapman of Newcastle upon Tyne was assigned the sole rights of erecting engines on the Wasborough-Pickard system in the counties of Northumberland, Durham and York. Wasborough was building engines in the south until his death the following year. The patentees tried to bargain with Boulton \& Watt to exchange the use of the crank for that of the separate condenser, but Boulton \& Watt would not agree, probably because James Watt claimed that one of his workers had stolen the idea of the crank and divulged it to Pickard. To avoid infringing Pickard's patent, Watt patented his sun-and-planet motion for his rotative engines.
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Bibliography
August 1780, British patent no. 1,263 (rotative engine with crank and gearwheels).
Further Reading
J.Farey, 1827, A Treatise on the Steam Engine, Historical, Practical and Descriptive, reprinted 1971, Newton Abbot: David \& Charles (contains an account of Pickard's crank). R.L.Hills, 1989, Power from Steam. A History of the Stationary Steam Engine, Cambridge University Press (provides an account of Pickard's crank).
R.A.Buchanan, 1978–9, "Steam and the engineering community in the eighteenth century", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 50 ("Thomas Newcomen. A commemorative symposium") (provides details about the development of his engine).
RLH

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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