Small, James

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b. c. 1742 Scotland
d. 1793 Scotland
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Scottish engineer who was first to apply scientific experiment and calculation to the design of ploughs.
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James Small served his apprenticeship as a wright and blacksmith at Hutton in Berwickshire, and then travelled for a time in England. It is possible that he learned his trade from the ploughwright Pashley, who ran the "Manufactory" in Rotherham. On his return to Scotland he settled at Blackadder Mount, Berwickshire, and there began to make his ploughs. He used a spring balance to determine the draft of the plough and fashioned the mouldboard from a soft wood so that the wear would show quickly on its surface. Repeated trials indicated the best shape to be adopted, and he had his mouldboards cast at the Carron Ironworks. At trials held at Dalkeith, Small's plough, pulled by two horses, outperformed the old Scotch plough hauled by as many as eight oxen, and his ploughs were soon to be found in all areas of the country. He established workshops in Leith Walk, where he made ploughs and other implements. It was in Edinburgh in 1784 that he published Treatise on Ploughs, in which he set out his methods and calculations. He made no attempt to patent his ideas, feeling that they should be available to all, and the book provided sufficient information for it to be used by his rivals. As a result he died a poor man at the age of 52. His family were supported with a £1,500 subscription raised on their behalf by Sir John Sinclair, President of the Board of Agriculture.
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Bibliography
1784, A Treatise on Ploughs and Wheel Carriages.
Further Reading
J.B.Passmore, 1930, The English Plough, Reading: University of Reading (provides a history of plough development from the eighth century, and deals in detail with Small's work).
AP

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

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