Barber, John

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baptized 22 October 1734 Greasley, Nottinghamshire, England
d. 6 November 1801 Attleborough, Nuneaton, England
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English inventor of the gas turbine and jet propulsion.
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He was the son of Francis Barber, coalmaster of Greasley, and Elizabeth Fletcher. In his will of 1765. his uncle, John Fletcher, left the bulk of his property, including collieries and Stainsby House, Horsley Woodhouse, Derbyshire, to John Barber. Another uncle, Robert, bequeathed him property in the next village, Smalley. It is clear that at this time John Barber was a man of considerable means. On a tablet erected by John in 1767, he acknowledges his debt to his uncle John in the words "in remembrance of the man who trained him up from a youth". At this time John Barber was living at Stainsby House and had already been granted his first patent, in 1766. The contents of this patent, which included a reversible water turbine, and his subsequent patents, suggest that he was very familiar with mining equipment, including the Newcomen engine. It comes as rather a surprise that c.1784 he became bankrupt and had to leave Stainsby House, evidently moving to Attleborough. In a strange twist, a descendent of Mr Sitwell, the new owner, bought the prototype Akroyd Stuart oil engine from the Doncaster Show in 1891.
The second and fifth (final) patents, in 1773 and 1792, were concerned with smelting and the third, in 1776, featured a boiler-mounted impulse steam turbine. The fourth and most important patent, in 1791, describes and engine that could be applied to the "grinding of corn, flints, etc.", "rolling, slitting, forging or battering iron and other metals", "turning of mills for spinning", "turning up coals and other minerals from mines", and "stamping of ores, raising water". Further, and importantly, the directing of the fluid stream into smelting furnaces or at the stern of ships to propel them is mentioned. The engine described comprised two retorts for heating coal or oil to produce an inflammable gas, one to operate while the other was cleansed and recharged. The resultant gas, together with the right amount of air, passed to a beam-operated pump and a water-cooled combustion chamber, and then to a water-cooled nozzle to an impulse gas turbine, which drove the pumps and provided the output. A clear description of the thermodynamic sequence known as the Joule Cycle (Brayton in the USA) is thus given. Further, the method of gas production predates Murdoch's lighting of the Soho foundry by gas.
It seems unlikely that John Barber was able to get his engine to work; indeed, it was well over a hundred years before a continuous combustion chamber was achieved. However, the details of the specification, for example the use of cooling water jackets and injection, suggest that considerable experimentation had taken place.
To be active in the taking out of patents over a period of 26 years is remarkable; that the best came after bankruptcy is more so. There is nothing to suggest that the cost of his experiments was the cause of his financial troubles.
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Further Reading
A.K.Bruce, 1944, "John Barber and the gas turbine", Engineer 29 December: 506–8; 8 March (1946):216, 217.
C.Lyle Cummins, 1976, Internal Fire, Carnot Press.
JB

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

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