Fox, James

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b. c.1760
d. 1835 Derby, England
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English machine-tool builder.
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Very little is known about the life of James Fox, but according to Samuel Smiles (1863) he was as a young man a butler in the service of the Reverend Thomas Gisborne of Foxhall Lodge, Staffordshire. His mechanical abilities were evident from his spare-time activities in the handling of tools and so impressed his employer that he supplied the capital to enable Fox to set up a business in Derby for the manufacture of machinery for the textile and lacemaking industries. To construct this machinery, Fox had to build his own machine tools and later, in the early nineteenth century, made them for sale, some being exported to France, Germany and Poland. He was renowned for his lathes, some of which were quite large; one built in 1830 has been preserved and is 22 ft (6.7 m) long with a swing of 27 in. (69 cm). He was responsible for many improve-ments in the design of the lathe and he also built some of the earliest planing machines (the first, it has been claimed, as early as 1814) and a gear-cutting machine, although this was apparently for cutting wooden patterns for cast gears. The business was continued by his sons Joseph and James (who died in 1859 aged 69) and into the 1860s by the sons of Joseph.
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Further Reading
S.Smiles, 1863, Industrial Biography, London, reprinted 1967, Newton Abbot (makes brief mention of Fox).
Letters relating to the invention of the planing machine can be found in Engineer 14 (1862): 189, 204, 219, 246 and 247.
His lathes are described in: R.S.Woodbury, 1961, History of the Lathe to 1850, Cleveland, Ohio; L.T.C.Rolt, 1965, Tools for the Job, London; repub. 1986; W.Steeds, 1969, A History of Machine Tools 1700–1910, Oxford.
RTS

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

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