Wyatt, John

Wyatt, John
SUBJECT AREA: Metallurgy, Textiles
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b. April 1700 Thickbroom, Weeford, near Lichfield, England
d. 29 November 1766 Birmingham, England
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English inventor of machines for making files and rolling lead, and co-constructor of a cotton-spinning machine.
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John Wyatt was the eldest son of John and Jane Wyatt, who lived in the small village of Thickbroom in the parish of Weeford, near Lichfield. John the younger was educated at Lichfield school and then worked as a carpenter at Thickbroom till 1730. In 1732 he was in Birmingham, engaged by a man named Heely, a gunbarrel forger, who became bankrupt in 1734. Wyatt had invented a machine for making files and sought the help of Lewis Paul to manufacture this commercially.
The surviving papers of Paul and Wyatt in Birmingham are mostly undated and show a variety of machines with which they were involved. There was a machine for "making lead hard" which had rollers, and "a Gymcrak of some consequence" probably refers to a machine for boring barrels or the file-making machine. Wyatt is said to have been one of the unsuccessful competitors for the erection of London Bridge in 1736. He invented and perfected the compound-lever weighing machine. He had more success with this: after 1744, machines for weighing up to five tons were set up at Birmingham, Chester, Gloucester, Hereford, Lichfield and Liverpool. Road construction, bridge building, hydrostatics, canals, water-powered engines and many other schemes received his attention and it is said that he was employed for a time after 1744 by Matthew Boulton.
It is certain that in April 1735 Paul and Wyatt were working on their spinning machine and Wyatt was making a model of it in London in 1736, giving up his work in Birmingham. The first patent, in 1738, was taken out in the name of Lewis Paul. It is impossible to know which of these two invented what. This first patent covers a wide variety of descriptions of the vital roller drafting to draw out the fibres, and it is unknown which system was actually used. Paul's carding patent of 1748 and his second spinning patent of 1758 show that he moved away from the system and principles upon which Arkwright built his success. Wyatt and Paul's spinning machines were sufficiently promising for a mill to be set up in 1741 at the Upper Priory, Birmingham, that was powered by two asses. Wyatt was the person responsible for constructing the machinery. Edward Cave established another at Northampton powered by water while later Daniel Bourn built yet another at Leominster. Many others were interested too. The Birmingham mill did not work for long and seems to have been given up in 1743. Wyatt was imprisoned for debt in The Fleet in 1742, and when released in 1743 he tried for a time to run the Birmingham mill and possibly the Northampton one. The one at Leominster burned down in 1754, while the Northampton mill was advertised for sale in 1756. This last mill may have been used again in conjunction with the 1758 patent. It was Wyatt whom Daniel Bourn contacted about a grant for spindles for his Leominster mill in 1748, but this seems to have been Wyatt's last association with the spinning venture.
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Further Reading
G.J.French, 1859, The Life and Times of Samuel Crompton, London (French collected many of the Paul and Wyatt papers; these should be read in conjunction with Hills 1970).
R.L.Hills, 1970, Power in the Industrial Revolution, Manchester (Hills shows that the rollerdrafting system on this spinning machine worked on the wrong principles). A.P.Wadsworth and J.de L.Mann, 1931, The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire, 1600–1780, Manchester (provides good coverage of the partnership of Paul and Wyatt and of the early mills).
E.Baines, 1835, History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain, London (this publication must be mentioned, although it is now out of date).
W.English, 1969, The Textile Industry, London (a more recent account).
W.A.Benton, "John Wyatt and the weighing of heavy loads", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 9 (for a description of Wyatt's weighing machine).
RLH

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

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