Owens, Michael Joseph

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b. 1 January 1859 Mason County, Virginia, USA
d. 27 December 1923 Toledo, Ohio, USA
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American inventor of the automatic glass bottle making machine.
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To assist the finances of a coal miner's family, Owens entered a glassworks at Wheeling, Virginia, at the tender age of 10, stoking coal into the "glory hole" or furnace where glass was resoftened at various stages of the hand-forming process. By the age of 15 he had become a glassblower.
In 1888 Owens moved to the glassworks of Edward Drummond Libbey at Toledo, Ohio, where within three months he was appointed Superintendent and, not long after, a branch manager. In 1893 Owens supervised the company's famous exhibit at the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago. He had by then begun experiments that were to lead to the first automatic bottle-blowing machine. He first used a piston pump to suck molten glass into a mould, and then transferred the gathered glass over another mould into which the bottle was blown by reversing the pump. The first patents were taken out in 1895, followed by others incorporating improvements and culminating in the patent of 8 November 1904 for an essentially perfected machine. Eventually it was capable of producing four bottles a second, thus effecting a revolution in bottle making. Owens, with Libbey and others, set up the Owens Bottle Machine Company in 1903, which Owens himself managed from 1915 to 1919, becoming Vice-President from 1915 until his death. A plant was also established in Manchester in 1905.
Besides this, Owens and Libbey first assisted Irving W.Colburn with his experiments on the continuous drawing of flat sheet glass and then in 1912 bought the patents, forming the Owens-Libbey Sheet Glass Company. In all, Owens was granted forty-five US patents, mainly relating to the manufacture and processing of glass. Owens's undoubted inventive genius was hampered by a lack of scientific knowledge, which he made good by judicious consultation.
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Further Reading
1923, Michael J.Owens (privately printed) (a series of memorial articles reprinted from various sources).
G.S.Duncan, 1960, Bibliography of Glass, Sheffield: Society of Glass Manufacturers (cites references to Owens's papers and patents).
LRD

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

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