Menzies, Michael

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b. end of the seventeenth century Lanarkshire, Scotland (?)
d. 13 December 1766 Edinburgh, Scotland
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Scottish inventor and lawyer.
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Menzies was admitted as a member of the Faculty of Advocates on 31 January 1719. It is evident from his applications for patents that he was more concerned with inventions than the law, however. He took out his first patent in 1734 for a threshing machine in which a number of flails were attached to a horizontal axis, which was moved rapidly forwards and backwards through half a revolution, essentially imitating the action of an ordinary flail. The grain to be threshed was placed on either side.
Though not a practical success, Menzies's invention seems to have been the first for the mechanical threshing of grain. His idea of imitating non-mechanized action also influenced his invention of a coal cutter, for which he took out a patent in 1761 and which copied miners' tools for obtaining coal. He proposed to carry heavy chains down the pit so that they could be used to give motion to iron picks, saws or other chains with cutting implements. The chains could be set into motion by a steam-engine, by water-or windmills, or by horses gins. Although it is quite obvious that this apparatus could not work, Menzies was the first to have thought of mechanizing coal production in the style that was in use in the late twentieth century. Subsequent to Menzies's proposal, many inventors at varying intervals followed this direction until the problem was finally solved one century later by, among others, W.E. Garforth.
Menzies had successfully used the power of a steam-engine on the Wear eight years beforehand, when he obtained a patent for raising coal. According to his device a descending bucket filled with water raised a basket of coals, while a steam-engine pumped the water back to the surface; the balance-tub system, in various forms, quickly spread to other coalfields. Menzies's patent from 1750 for improved methods of carrying the coals from the coalface to the pit-shaft had also been of considerable influence: this device employed self-acting inclined planes, whereon the descending loaded wagons hauled up the empty ones.
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Further Reading
The article entitled "Michael Menzies" in the Dictionary of National Biography neglects Menzies's inventions for mining. A comprehensive evaluation of his influence on coal cutting is given in the introductory chapter of S.F.Walker, 1902, Coal-Cutting by
Machinery, London.
WK

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

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