Dickinson, John

SUBJECT AREA: Paper and printing
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b. 29 March 1782
d. 11 January 1869 London, England
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English papermaker and inventor of a papermaking machine.
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After education at a private school, Dickinson was apprenticed to a London stationer. In 1806 he started in business as a stationer, in partnership with George Longman; they transferred to 65 Old Bailey, where the firm remained until their premises were destroyed during the Second World War. In order to secure the supply of paper and be less dependent on the papermakers, Dickinson turned to making paper on his own account. In 1809 he acquired Apsley Mill, near Hemel Hempstead on the river Gade in Hertfordshire. There, he produced a new kind of paper for cannon cartridges which, unlike the paper then in use, did not smoulder, thus reducing the risk of undesired explosions. The new paper proved very useful during the Napoleonic War.
Dickinson developed a continuous papermaking machine about the same time as the Fourdrinier brothers, but his worked on a different principle. Instead of a continuous flat wire screen, Dickinson used a wire-covered cylinder which dipped into the dilute pulp as it revolved. A felt-covered roller removed the layer of wet pulp, which was then subjected to drying, as in the Fourdrinier machine. The latter was first in use at Frogmore, just upstream from Apsley Mill on the river Gade. Dickinson patented his machine in 1809 and claimed that it was superior for some kinds of paper. In feet, both types of machine have survived, in much enlarged and modified form: the Fourdrinier for general papermaking, the Dickinson cylinder for the making of board. In 1810 Dickinson acquired the nearby Nash Mill, and over the years he extended the scope of his papermaking business, introducing many technical improvements. Among his inventions was a machine to paste together continuous webs of paper to form cardboard. Another, patented in 1829, was a process for incorporating threads of cotton, flax or silk into the body of the paper to make forgery more difficult. He became increasingly prosperous, overcoming labour disputes with unemployed hand-papermakers. and lawsuits against a canal company which threatened the water supply to his mills. Dickinson was the first to use percolation gauges to predict river flow, and his work on water supply brought him election to a Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1845.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRS 1845.
Further Reading
R.H.Clapperton, 1967, The Paper-making Machine, Oxford: Pergamon Press, pp. 331–5 (provides a biography and full details of Dickinson's inventions).
LRD

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

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