Wolseley, Frederick York

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b. 1837 Co. Dublin, Ireland
d. 1899 England
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Irish inventor who developed the first practical sheep shears and was also involved in the development of the car which bore his name.
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The credit for the first design of sheep shears lies with James Higham, who patented the idea in 1868. However, its practical and commercial success lay in the work of a number of people, to each of whom Frederick Wolseley provides the connecting link.
One of three brothers, he emigrated to Australia in 1854 and worked in New South Wales for five years. In 1867 he produced a working model of mechanical sheep shears, but it took a further five years before he actually produced a machine, whilst working as Manager of a sheep station in Victoria. In the intervening period it is possible that he visited America and Britain. On returning to Australia in 1872 he and Robert Savage produced another working model in a workshop in Melbourne. Four years later, by which time Wolseley had acquired the "Euroka" sheep station at Walgett, they tested the model and in 1877 acquired joint patent rights. The machine was not successful, and in 1884 another joint patent, this time with Robert Pickup, was taken out on a cog-gear universal joint. Development was to take several more years, during which a highly skilled blacksmith by the name of George Gray joined the team. It is likely that he was the first person to remove a fleece from a sheep mechanically. Finally, the last to be involved in the development of the shears was another Englishman, John Howard, who emigrated to Australia in 1883 with the intention of developing a shearing machine based on his knowledge of existing horse clippers. Wolseley purchased Howard's patent rights and gave him a job. The first public demonstration of the shears was held at the wool stores of Goldsborough \& Co. of Melbourne. Although the hand shearers were faster, when the three sheep that had been clipped by them were re-shorn using the mechanical machine, a further 2 lb (900 g) of wool was removed.
Wolseley placed the first manufacturing order with A.P.Parks, who employed a young Englishman by the name of Herbert Austin. A number of improvements to the design were suggested by Austin, who acquired patents and assigned them to Wolseley in 1895 in return for shares in the company. Austin returned to England to run the Wolseley factory in Birmingham. He also built there the first car to carry the Wolseley name, and subsequently opened a car factory carrying his own name.
Wolseley resigned as Managing Director of the company in 1894 and died five years later.
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Further Reading
F.Wheelhouse, 1966, Digging Stock to Rotary Hoe: Men and Machines in Rural Australia (provides a detailed account of Wolseley's developments).
AP

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

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