Ackermann, Rudolph

Ackermann, Rudolph
b. 20 April 1764 Stolberg, Saxony
d. 30 March 1834 Finchley, London, England
German-born fine-art publisher and bookseller, noted for his arrangement of the steering of the front wheels of horse-drawn carriages, which is still used in automobiles today.
Ackermann's father was a coachbuilder and harness-maker who in 1775 moved to Schneeberg. Rudolph was educated there and later entered his father's workshop for a short time. He visited Dresden, among other towns in Germany, and was resident in Paris for a short time, but eventually settled in London. For the first ten years of his life there he was employed in making designs for many of the leading coach builders. His steering-gear consisted of an arrangement of the track arms on the stub axles and their connection by the track rod in such a way that the inner wheel moved through a greater angle than the outer one, so giving approximately true rolling of the wheels in cornering. A necessary condition for this is that, in the plan view, the point of intersection of the axes of all the wheels must be at a point which always lies on the projection of the rear axle. In addition, the front wheels are inclined to bring the line of contact of the front wheels under the line of the pivots, about which they turn when cornering. This mechanism was not entirely new, having been proposed for windmill carriages in 1714 by Du Quet, but it was brought into prominence by Ackermann and so has come to bear his name.
In 1801 he patented a method of rendering paper, cloth and other materials waterproof and set up a factory in Chelsea for that purpose. He was one of the first private persons to light his business premises with gas. He also devoted some time to a patent for movable carriage axles between 1818 and 1820. In 1805 he was put in charge of the preparation of the funeral car for Lord Nelson.
Most of his life and endeavours were devoted to fine-art printing and publishing. He was responsible for the introduction into England of lithography as a fine art: it had first been introduced as a mechanical process in 1801, but was mainly used for copying until Ackermann took it up in 1817, setting up a press and engaging the services of a number of prominent artists, including W.H.Pyne, W.Combe, Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson. In 1819 he published an English translation of J.A.Senefelder's A Complete Course of Lithography, illustrated with lithographic plates from his press. He was much involved in charitable works for widows, children and wounded soldiers after the war of 1814. In 1830 he suffered "an attack of paralysis" which left him unable to continue in business. He died four years later and was buried at St Clement Danes.
His fine-art publications are numerous and well known, and include the following:
The Microcosm of London University of Oxford University of Cambridge The Thames
The Rhine English Lakes
Further Reading
Aubrey F.Burstall, "A history of mechanical engineering", Dictionary of National Biography.

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

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