Champion, Nehemiah

SUBJECT AREA: Metallurgy
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b. 1678 probably Bristol, England
d. 9 September 1747 probably Bristol, England
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English merchant and brass manufacturer of Bristol.
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Several members of Champion's Quaker family were actively engaged as merchants in Bristol during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. Port records show Nehemiah in receipt of Cornish copper ore at Bristol's Crews Hole smelting works by 1706, in association with the newly formed brassworks of the city. He later became a leading partner, managing the company some time after Abraham Darby left the Bristol works to pursue his interest at Coalbrookdale. Champion, probably in company with his father, became the largest customer for Darby's Coalbrookdale products and also acted as Agent, at least briefly, for Thomas Newcomen.
A patent in 1723 related to two separate innovations introduced by the brass company.
The first improved the output of brass by granulating the copper constituent and increasing its surface area. A greater proportion of zinc vapour could permeate the granules compared with the previous practice, resulting in the technique being adopted generally in the cementation process used at the time. The latter part of the same patent introduced a new type of coal-fired furnace which facilitated annealing in bulk so replacing the individual processing of pieces. The principle of batch annealing was generally adopted, although the type of furnace was later improved. A further patent, in 1739, in the name of Nehemiah, concerned overshot water-wheels possibly intended for use in conjunction with the Newcomen atmospheric pumping engine employed for recycling water by his son William.
Champion's two sons, John and William, and their two sons, both named John, were all concerned with production of non-ferrous metals and responsible for patented innovations. Nehemiah, shortly before his death, is believed to have partnered William at the Warmley works to exploit his son's new patent for producing metallic zinc.
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Bibliography
1723, British patent no. 454 (granulated copper technique and coal-fired furnace). 1739, British patent no. 567 (overshot water-wheels).
Further Reading
A.Raistrick, 1950, Quakers in Science and Industry, London: Bannisdale Press (for the Champion family generally).
J.Day, 1973, Bristol Brass, a History of the Industry, Newton Abbot: David \& Charles (for the industrial activities of Nehemiah).
JD

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

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