Fowler, John

Fowler, John
SUBJECT AREA: Civil engineering
b. 11 July 1826 Melksham, Wiltshire, England
d. 4 December 1864 Ackworth, Yorkshire, England
English engineer and inventor who developed a steam-powered system of mole land drainage, and a two-engined system of land cultivation, founding the Steam Plough Works in Leeds.
The son of a Quaker merchant, John Fowler entered the business of a county corn merchant on leaving school, but he found this dull and left as soon as he came of age, joining the Middlesbrough company of Gilkes, Wilson \& Hopkins, railway locomotive manufacturers. In 1849, at the age of 23, Fowler visited Ireland and was so distressed by the state of Irish agriculture that he determined to develop a system to deal with the drainage of land. He designed an implement which he patented in 1850 after a period of experimentation. It was able to lay wooden pipes to a depth of two feet, and was awarded the Silver Medal at the 1850 Royal Agriculture Show. By 1854, using a steam engine made by Clayton \& Shuttleworth, he had applied steam power to his invention and gained another award that year at the Royal Show. The following year he turned his attention to steam ploughing. He first developed a single-engined system that used a double windlass with which to haul a plough backwards and forwards across fields. In 1856 he patented his balance plough, and the following year he read a paper to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at their Birmingham premises, describing the system. In 1858 he won the Royal Agricultural Society award with a plough built for him by Ransomes. Fowler founded the Steam Plough Works in Leeds and in 1862 production began in partnership with William Watson Hewitson. Within two years they were producing the first of a series of engines which were to make the name Fowler known worldwide. John Fowler saw little of his success because he died in 1864 at his Yorkshire home as a result of tetanus contracted after a riding accident.
Further Reading
M.Lane, 1980, The Story of the Steam Plough Works, Northgate Publishing (provides biographical details of John Fowler, but is mostly concerned with the company that he founded).

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

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