Wasborough, Matthew

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b. 1753 Bristol, England
d. 21 October 1781 Bristol, England
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English patentee of an application of the flywheel to create a rotative steam engine.
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A single-cylinder atmospheric steam engine had a power stroke only when the piston descended the cylinder: a means had to be found of returning the piston to its starting position. For rotative engines, this was partially solved by the patent of Matthew Wasborough in 1779. His father was a partner in a Bristol brass-founding and clockmaking business in Narrow Wine Street where he was joined by his son. Wasborough proposed to use some form of ratchet gear to effect the rotary motion and added a flywheel, the first time one was used in a steam engine, "in order to render the motion more regular and uniform". He installed one engine to drive the lathes in the Bristol works and another at James Pickard's flour mill at Snow Hill, Birmingham, where Pickard applied his recently patented crank to it. It was this Wasborough-Pickard engine which posed a threat to Boulton \& Watt trying to develop a rotative engine, for Wasborough built several engines for cornmills in Bristol, woollen mills in Gloucestershire and a block factory at Southampton before his early death. Matthew Boulton was told that Wasborough was "so intent upon the study of engines as to bring a fever on his brain and he dyed in consequence thereof…. How dangerous it is for a man to wade out of his depth" (Jenkins 1936:106).
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Bibliography
1779, British patent no. 1,213 (rotative engine with flywheel).
Further Reading
J.Tann, 1978–9, "Makers of improved Newcomen engines in the late 18th century, and 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") (both papers discuss Wasborough's engines).
R.L.Hills, 1989, Power from Steam. A History of the Stationary Steam Engine, Cambridge University Press (examines his patent).
R.Jenkins (ed.), 1936, Collected Papers, 106 (for Matthew Boulton's letter of 30 October 1781).
RLH

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

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