Garforth, William Edward

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b. 1845 Dukinfield, Cheshire, England
d. 1 October 1921 Pontefract, Yorkshire, England
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English colliery manager, pioneer in machine-holing and the safety of mines.
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After Menzies conceived his idea of breaking off coal with machines in 1761, many inventors subsequently followed his proposals through into the practice of underground working. More than one century later, Garforth became one of the principal pioneers of machine-holing combined with the longwall method of working in order to reduce production costs and increase the yield of coal. Having been appointed agent to Pope \& Pearson's Collieries, West Yorkshire, in 1879, of which company he later became Managing Director and Chairman, he gathered a great deal of experience with different methods of cutting coal. The first disc machine was exhibited in London as early as 1851, and ten years later a pick machine was invented. In 1893 he introduced an improved type of deep undercutting machine, his "diamond" disc coal-cutter, driven by compressed air, which also became popular on the European continent.
Besides the considerable economic advantages it created, the use of machinery for mining coal increased the safety of working in hard and thin seams. The improvement of safety in mining technology was always his primary concern, and as a result of his inventions and his many publications he became the leading figure in the British coal mining industry at the beginning of the twentieth century; safety lamps still carry his name. In 1885 he invented a firedamp detector, and following a severe explosion in 1886 he concentrated on coal-dust experiments. From the information he obtained of the effect of stone-dust on a coal-dust explosion he proposed the stone-dust remedy to prevent explosions of coal-dust. As a result of discussions which lasted for decades and after he had been entrusted with the job of conducting the British coal-dust experiments, in 1921 an Act made it compulsory in all mines which were not naturally wet throughout to treat all roads with incombustible dust so as to ensure that the dust always consisted of a mixture containing not more than 50 per cent combustible matter. In 1901 Garforth erected a surface gallery which represented the damaged roadways of a mine and could be filled with noxious fumes to test self-contained breathing apparata. This gallery formed the model from which all the rescue-stations existing nowadays have been developed.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knighted 1914. LLD Universities of Birmingham and Leeds 1912. President, Midland Institute 1892–4. President, The Institution of Mining Engineers 1911–14. President, Mining Association of Great Britain 1907–8. Chairman, Standing Committee on Mining, Advisory Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Fellow of the Geological Society of London. North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers Greenwell Silver Medal 1907. Royal Society of Arts Fothergill Gold Medal 1910. Medal of the Institution of Mining Engineers 1914.
Bibliography
1901–2, "The application of coal-cutting machines to deep mining", Transactions of the Federated Institute of Mining Engineers 23: 312–45.
1905–6, "A new apparatus for rescue-work in mines", Transactions of the Institution of Mining Engineers 31:625–57.
1902, "British Coal-dust Experiments". Paper communicated to the International Congress on Mining, Metallurgy, Applied Mechanics and Practical Geology, Dusseldorf.
Further Reading
Garforth's name is frequently mentioned in connection with coal-holing, but his outstanding achievements in improving safety in mines are only described in W.D.Lloyd, 1921, "Memoir", Transactions of the Institution of Mining Engineers 62:203–5.
WK

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

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