Pratt, Francis Ashbury

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b. 15 February 1827 Woodstock, Vermont, USA
d. 10 February 1902 Hartford, Connecticut, USA
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American mechanical engineer and machine-tool manufacturer.
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Francis A.Pratt served an apprenticeship as a machinist with Warren Aldrich, and on completing it in 1848 he entered the Gloucester Machine Works as a journeyman machinist. From 1852 to 1854 he worked at the Colt Armory in Hartford, Connecticut, where he met his future partner, Amos Whitney. He then became Superintendent of the Phoenix Iron Works, also at Hartford and run by George S.Lincoln \& Company. While there he designed the well-known "Lincoln" miller, which was first produced in 1855. This was a development of the milling machine built by Robbins \& Lawrence and designed by F.W. Howe, and incorporated a screw drive for the table instead of the rack and pinion used in the earlier machine.
Whitney also moved to the Phoenix Iron Works, and in 1860 the two men started in a small way doing machine work on their own account. In 1862 they took a third partner, Monroe Stannard, and enlarged their workshop. The business continued to expand, but Pratt and Whitney remained at the Phoenix Iron Works until 1864 and in the following year they built their first new factory. The Pratt \& Whitney Company was incorporated in 1869 with a capital of $350,000, F.A.Pratt being elected President. The firm specialized in making machine tools and tools particularly for the armament industry. In the 1870s Pratt made no less than ten trips to Europe gaining orders for equipping armouries in many different countries. Pratt \& Whitney was one of the leading firms developing the system of interchangeable manufacture which led to the need to establish national standards of measurement. The Rogers-Bond Comparator, developed with the backing of Pratt \& Whitney, played an important part in the establishment of these standards, which formed the basis of the gauges of many various types made by the firm. Pratt remained President of the company until 1898, after which he served as their Consulting Engineer for a short time before retiring from professional life. He was granted a number of patents relating to machine tools. He was a founder member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1880 and was elected a vice-president in 1881. He was an alderman of the city of Hartford.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Vice-President, American Society of Mechanical Engineers 1881.
Further Reading
J.W.Roe, 1916, English and American Tool Builders, New Haven; reprinted 1926, New York, and 1987, Bradley, 111. (describes the origin and development of the Pratt \& Whitney Company).
RTS

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

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