Bramah, Joseph

Bramah, Joseph
b. 2 April 1749 Stainborough, Yorkshire, England
d. 9 December 1814 Pimlico, London, England
English inventor of the second patented water-closet, the beer-engine, the Bramah lock and, most important, the hydraulic press.
Bramah was the son of a tenant farmer and was educated at the village school before being apprenticed to a local carpenter, Thomas Allot. He walked to London c.1773 and found work with a Mr Allen that included the repair of some of the comparatively rare water-closets of the period. He invented and patented one of his own, which was followed by a water cock in 1783. His next invention, a greatly improved lock, involved the devising of a number of special machine tools, for it was one of the first devices involving interchangeable components in its manufacture. In this he had the help of Henry Maudslay, then a young and unknown engineer, who became Bramah's foreman before setting up business on his own. In 1784 he moved his premises from Denmark Street, St Giles, to 124 Piccadilly, which was later used as a showroom when he set up a factory in Pimlico. He invented an engine for putting out fires in 1785 and 1793, in effect a reciprocating rotary-vane pump. He undertook the refurbishment and modernization of Norwich waterworks c.1793, but fell out with Robert Mylne, who was acting as Consultant to the Norwich Corporation and had produced a remarkably vague specification. This was Bramah's only venture into the field of civil engineering.
In 1797 he acted as an expert witness for Hornblower \& Maberley in the patent infringement case brought against them by Boulton and Watt. Having been cut short by the judge, he published his proposed evidence in "Letter to the Rt Hon. Sir James Eyre, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas…etc". In 1795 he was granted his most important patent, based on Pascal's Hydrostatic Paradox, for the hydraulic press which also incorporated the concept of hydraulics for the transmission of both power and motion and was the foundation of the whole subsequent hydraulic industry. There is no truth in the oft-repeated assertion originating from Samuel Smiles's Industrial Biography (1863) that the hydraulic press could not be made to work until Henry Maudslay invented the self-sealing neck leather. Bramah used a single-acting upstroking ram, sealed only at its base with a U-leather. There was no need for a neck leather.
He also used the concept of the weight-loaded, in this case as a public-house beer-engine. He devised machinery for carbonating soda water. The first banknote-numbering machine was of his design and was bought by the Bank of England. His development of a machine to cut twelve nibs from one goose quill started a patent specification which ended with the invention of the fountain pen, patented in 1809. His coach brakes were an innovation that was followed bv a form of hydropneumatic carriage suspension that was somewhat in advance of its time, as was his patent of 1812. This foresaw the introduction of hydraulic power mains in major cities and included the telescopic ram and the air-loaded accumulator.
In all Joseph Bramah was granted eighteen patents. On 22 March 1813 he demonstrated a hydraulic machine for pulling up trees by the roots in Hyde Park before a large crowd headed by the Duke of York. Using the same machine in Alice Holt Forest in Hampshire to fell timber for ships for the Navy, he caught a chill and died soon after at his home in Pimlico.
1778, British patent no. 1177 (water-closet). 1784, British patent no. 1430 (Bramah Lock). 1795, British patent no. 2045 (hydraulic press). 1809, British patent no. 3260 (fountain pen). 1812, British patent no. 3611.
Further Reading
I.McNeil, 1968, Joseph Bramah, a Century of Invention.
S.Smiles, 1863, Industrial Biography.
H.W.Dickinson, 1942, "Joseph Bramah and his inventions", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 22:169–86.

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

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  • Joseph — /joh zeuhf, seuhf/, n. 1. Jacob s eleventh son, the first of Jacob and his second wife, Rachel: sold into slavery by his brothers. Gen. 30:22 24; 37. 2. the husband of Mary who was the mother of Jesus. Matt. 1:16 25. 3. (Hinmaton yalaktit), c1840 …   Universalium

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