Wedgwood, Josiah

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baptized 12 July 1730 Burslem, Staffordshire, England
d. 3 January 1795 Etruria Hall, Staffordshire, England
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English potter and man of science.
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Wedgwood came from prolific farming stock who, in the seventeenth century, had turned to pot-making. At the age of 9 his education was brought to an end by his father's death and he was set to work in one of the family potteries. Two years later an attack of smallpox left him with a weakness in his right knee which prevented him from working the potter's wheel. This forced his attention to other aspects of the process, such as design and modelling. He was apprenticed to his brother Thomas in 1744, and in 1752 was in partnership with Thomas Whieldon, a leading Staffordshire potter, until probably the first half of 1759, when he became a master potter and set up in business on his own account at Ivy House Works in Burslem.
Wedgwood was then able to exercise to the full his determination to improve the quality of his ware. This he achieved by careful attention to all aspects of the work: artistic judgement of form and decoration; chemical study of the materials; and intelligent management of manufacturing processes. For example, to achieve greater control over firing conditions, he invented a pyrometer, a temperature-measuring device by which the shrinkage of prepared clay cylinders in the furnace gave an indication of the temperature. Wedgwood was the first potter to employ steam power, installing a Boulton \& Watt engine for crushing and other operations in 1782. Beyond the confines of his works, Wedgwood concerned himself in local issues such as improvements to the road and canal systems to facilitate transport of raw materials and products.
During the first ten years, Wedgwood steadily improved the quality of his cream ware, known as "Queen's ware" after a set of ware was presented to Queen Charlotte in 1762. The business prospered and his reputation grew. In 1766 he was able to purchase an estate on which he built new works, a mansion and a village to which he gave the name Etruria. Four years after the Etruria works were opened in 1769, Wedgwood began experimenting with a barium compound combined in a fine-textured base allied to a true porcelain. The result was Wedgwood's most original and distinctive ware similar to jasper, made in a wide variety of forms.
Wedgwood had many followers and imitators but the merit of initiating and carrying through a large-scale technical and artistic development of English pottery belongs to Wedgwood.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRS 1783.
Bibliography
Wedgwood contributed five papers to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, two in 1783 and 1790 on chemical subjects and three in 1782, 1784 and 1786 on his pyrometer.
Further Reading
Meteyard, 1865, Life of Josiah Wedgwood, London (biography).
A.Burton, 1976, Josiah Wedgwood: Biography, London: André Deutsch (a very readable account).
LRD

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

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  • Wedgwood, Josiah — (baptized July 12, 1730, Burslem, Staffordshire, Eng. died Jan. 3, 1795, Etruria, Staffordshire) British pottery designer and manufacturer. His family had been potters since the 17th century. After an apprenticeship with his elder brother, he… …   Universalium

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