Wilkinson, David

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b. 5 January 1771 Smithfield (now Slatersville), Rhode Island, USA
d. 3 February 1852 Caledonia Springs, Ontario, Canada
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American mechanical engineer and inventor of a screw-cutting lathe.
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David Wilkinson was the third son of Oziel Wilkinson (1744–1815), a blacksmith who c.1783 established at Pawtucket, Rhode Island, a plant for making farm tools and domestic utensils. This enterprise he steadily expanded with the aid of his sons, until by 1800 it was regarded as the leading iron and machinery manufacturing business in New England. At the age of 13, David Wilkinson entered his father's workshops. Their products included iron screws, and the problem of cutting the threads was one that engaged his attention. After working on it for some years he devised a screw-cutting lathe, for which he obtained a patent in 1798. In about 1800 David and his brother Daniel established their own factory at Pawtucket, known as David Wilkinson \& Co., where they specialized in the manufacture of textile machinery. Later they began to make cast cannon and installed a special boring machine for machining them. The firm prospered until 1829, when a financial crisis caused its collapse. David Wilkinson set up a new business in Cohoes, New York, but this was not a success and from 1836 he travelled around finding work chiefly in canal and bridge construction in New Jersey, Ohio and Canada. In 1848 he petitioned Congress for some reward for his invention of the screw-cutting lathe of 1798; he was awarded $10,000.
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Further Reading
J.W.Roe, 1916, English and American Tool Builders, New Haven; reprinted 1926, New York, and 1987, Bradley, Ill. (provides a short account of David Wilkinson and his work).
R.S.Woodbury, 1961, History of the Lathe to 1850, Cleveland, Ohio (includes a description of Wilkinson's screw-cutting lathe).
RTS

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

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