Sellers, William

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b. 19 September 1824 Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, USA
d. 24 January 1905 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
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American mechanical engineer and inventor.
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William Sellers was educated at a private school that had been established by his father and other relatives for their children, and at the age of 14 he was apprenticed for seven years to the machinist's trade with his uncle. At the end of his apprenticeship in 1845 he took charge of the machine shop of Fairbanks, Bancroft \& Co. in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1848 he established his own factory manufacturing machine tools and mill gearing in Philadelphia, where he was soon joined by Edward Bancroft, the firm becoming Bancroft \& Sellers. After Bancroft's death the name was changed in 1856 to William Sellers \& Co. and Sellers served as President until the end of his life. His machine tools were characterized by their robust construction and absence of decorative embellishments. In 1868 he formed the Edgemoor Iron Company, of which he was President. This company supplied the structural ironwork for the Centennial Exhibition buildings and much of the material for the Brooklyn Bridge. In 1873 he reorganized the William Butcher Steel Works, renaming it the Midvale Steel Company, and under his presidency it became a leader in the production of heavy ordnance. It was at the Midvale Steel Company that Frederick W. Taylor began, with the encouragement of Sellers, his experiments on cutting tools.
In 1860 Sellers obtained the American rights of the patent for the Giffard injector for feeding steam boilers. He later invented his own improvements to the injector, which numbered among his many other patents, most of which related to machine tools. Probably Sellers's most important contribution to the engineering industry was his proposal for a system of screw threads made in 1864 and later adopted as the American national standard.
Sellers was a founder member in 1880 of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and was also a member of many other learned societies in America and other countries, including, in Britain, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Iron and Steel Institute.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur 1889. President, Franklin Institute 1864–7.
Further Reading
J.W.Roe, 1916, English and American Tool Builders, New Haven; reprinted 1926, New York, and 1987, Bradley, Ill. (describes Sellers's work on machine tools).
Bruce Sinclair, 1969, "At the turn of a screw: William Sellers, the Franklin Institute, and a standard American thread", Technology and Culture 10:20–34 (describes his work on screw threads).
RTS

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

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