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Thumbnail of Henry Fourdrinier (source)
Henry Fourdrinier
(11 Feb 1766 - 3 Sep 1854)

English inventor of paper-making machinery known by his name, which is still at the core of modern continuous production equipment.


Henry Fourdrinier

from Dictionary of National Biography (1889)

Henry Fourdrinier
Henry Fourdrinier
from Illustrated London News (7 Oct 1854) (source)

Henry Fourdrinier (1766-1854), inventor, was born 11 Feb. 1766, in Lombard Street, London. His father was a paper-maker and wholesale stationer, and was in all probability grandson of Paul Fourdrinier.

Henry Fourdrinier succeeded his father as a paper manufacturer. In conjunction with his brother Sealy he devoted himself for many years to the invention and improvement of paper-making machinery. Their first patent was taken out in 1801. In 1807 they perfected their machine for making continuous paper. This machine imitated with some improvements the processes used in paper by hand. Its chief advantages were that it produced paper of any size, and with greatly increases rapidity.

The experiments were very costly, and much litigation was required to protect the patent. When the invention was completed they had expended 60,000 pounds, and became bankrupt. Parliament extended the Fourdriniers' letters patent for fourteen years, and the new system of paper-making was widely adopted, but the brothers were greatly hampered by the defective state of the law of patents. In 1814, the Emperor Alexander, while visiting England, was interested in Fourdiniers' machine. An agreement was made that the Fourdriniers should receive 700 pounds annually for the use of two machines for ten years. The machines were erected at Peterhoff under the superintendence of Henry Fourdrinier's son, but no portion of the stipulated sum was ever paid. Henry Fourdrinier repeatedly asserted his claim, and at the age of seventy-two, attended by his daughter, made a journey to St. Petersberg, and placed his petition personally in the hands of Emperor Nicholas. No result followed.

Meanwhile the Fourdriniers had petitioned parliament for compensation on the losses sustained by them. On 25 April 1839 a motion was brought forward in the House of Commons, when the chancellor of the exchequer promised to ;go into the merits of the case. On 8 May 1840, 7,000 pounds was voted to the Fourdriniers. Many persons thought this was inadequate, and a few years later a subscription, raised by firms in the paper trade, enabled annuities to be purchased for Henry Fourdrinier, the then surviving patentee, and his two daughters, insuring a comfortable income during their respective lives.

Henry Fourdrinier died on 3 Sept. 1854, in his eighty-ninth year, at Mavesyn Ridware, near Rugeley, [Staffordshire,] where he spent the last years of his life in humble but cheerful retirement.

His brother, Sealy Fourdrinier, participated in the parliamentary compensation, but died in 1847 before the subscription had been applied.

[Hansard, vols. xlvii. liii., 3rd ser.; Illustrated London News, 9 Sept. 1854; British and Colonial Printer and Stationer, September 1888.]

J. B-y.

Image added (not in original article) from Illustrated London News (7 Oct 1854), 345. Text from Leslie Stephen, Dictionary of National Biography (1889), Vol. 20, 78. (source)


See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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