Elkington, George Richard

Elkington, George Richard
SUBJECT AREA: Metallurgy
b. 17 October 1801 Birmingham England
d. 22 September 1865 Pool Park, Denbighshire, England
English pioneer in electroplating.
He was apprenticed to his uncles, makers of metalware, in 1815 and showed such aptitude for business that he was taken into partnership. On their deaths, Elkington assumed sole ownership of the business. In conjunction with his cousin Henry (1810–52), by unrelenting enterprise, he established an industry for electroplating and electrogilding. Up until c.1840, silver-plated goods were produced by rolling or soldering thin sheets of silver to a base metal, such as copper. Back in 1801, the English chemist William Wollaston had deposited one metal upon another by means of an electric current generated from a voltaic pile or battery. In the 1830s, certain inventors, such as Bessemer used this result to produce plated articles and these efforts in turn induced the Elkingtons to apply the method in their trade. In 1836 and 1837 they took out patents for "mercurial gilding", and one patent of 1838 refers to a separate electric current. In 1840 they bought from John Wright, a Birmingham surgeon, his discovery of what proved to be the best electroplating solution: namely, solutions of cyanides of gold and silver in potassium cyanide. They also purchased rights to use the electric machine invented by J.S. Woolrich. Armed with these techniques, the Elkingtons produced in their large new works in Newhall Street a wide range of gold-and silver-plated decorative and artistic ware. Henry was particularly active on the artistic side of the business, as was their employee Alexander Parkes. For some twenty-five years, Britain enjoyed a virtual monopoly of this kind of ware, due largely to the enterprise of the Elkingtons, although by the end of the century rising tariffs had closed many foreign markets and the lead had passed to Germany. George spent all his working life in Birmingham, taking some part in the public life of the city. He was a governor of King Edward's Grammar School and a borough magistrate. He was also a caring employer, setting up houses and schools for his workers.
1864, Journal of the Royal Society for Arts (29 January).

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

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