Donisthorpe, George Edmond

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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fl. c.1842 England
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English inventor of a wool-combing machine.
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Edmund Cartwright's combing machine needed a great deal of improvement before it could be used to tackle the finer qualities of wool. Various people carried out experiments over the next thirty years, including G.E.Donisthorpe of Leicester. Together with Henry Rawson, Donisthorpe obtained his first patent for improvements to wool combing in 1835, but his important ones were obtained in 1842 and 1843. These attracted the attention of S.C. Lister, who had become interested in developing a machine to comb wool after seeing the grim working conditions of the hand-combers supplying his mill at Manningham. Lister was quick to perceive that Donisthorpe's invention carried sufficient promise to replace the hand-comber, so in 1842 he made Donisthorpe an offer, which was accepted, of £2,000 for half the patent rights. In the following year Lister purchased the other half of the patent for £10,000, whereby Donisthorpe ceased to have any pecuniary interest in it. Lister took Donisthorpe into partnership and they worked together over the ensuing years with patience and diligence until they eventually succeeded in bringing out a combing machine that was generally acceptable. They were combing fine botany wool for the first time by machine in 1843. Further patents were taken out in their joint names in 1849 and 1850: these included the "nip" mechanism, the priority of which was disputed by Heilmann. Donisthorpe also took out patents for wool combing with John Whitehead in 1849 and John Crofts in 1853.
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Bibliography
1835, British patent no. 6,808 (improvements to wool combing). 1842. British patent no. 9,404.
1843. British patent no. 9,966.
1843, British patent no. 9,780.
1849, with S.C.Lister, British patent no. 12,712.
1849, with S.C.Lister, British patent no. 13,009. 1849, with S.C.Lister, British patent no. 13,532. 1849, with John Whitehead, British patent no. 12,603. 1853, with John Crofts, British patent no. 216.
Further Reading
J.Hogg (ed.), c.1888, Fortunes Made in Business, London (provides an account of the association between Donisthorpe and Lister).
W.English, 1969, The Textile Industry, London (explains the technical details of combing machines).
C.Singer (ed.), 1958, A History of Technology, Vol. IV, Oxford: Clarendon Press (includes a good section on combing machines).
RLH

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

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