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Henry Maudslay
(22 Aug 1771 - 14 Feb 1831)

British engineer and inventor.

Henry Maudslay and Modern Tools.

from The Mechanical Equipment  (1918)

[p.201] Modern tools really had their beginning with the application of the “slide rest” principle to turning lathes by Henry Maudslay, a principle which has been extended to nearly every form of machine tool. It was first developed by Maudslay between 1790 and 1800 in the shop of Joseph Bramah, in London. Instead of being manipulated by hand, the cutting tool was clamped solidly in a tool post carried on a slide rest movable along accurately finished guides on the bed of the machine. For many years the slide rest was known in English as “Maudslay’s Go-Cart.”

In its first and simplest form the motion was controlled by hand-operated screws. In a short time, provison was made for connecting the operating screws by gearing to the driving spindle, giving the tool a power feed. This invention enormously increased the accuracy of the machine as well as the size of the cuts which could be taken. The old hand tools had to be skillfully used, for occasionally they “dug in” and lifted the workman over the lathe.

The lead screw, for which, also, Maudslay is responsible, followed within a very few years, and was a natural development from the slide rest. In its first form, Figure 45, a lead screw with the same number of threads per inch as it was desired to cut, was attached to a slide rest and driven at the same speed as the work. This caused the cutting tool in the slide rest to move forward over the work and generate the screw thread required. It, of course, necessitated a separate lead screw for every pitch to be cut. Within a year or so Maudslay developed the idea [p.202] of a single lead screw, much more accurately formed, which could be made to cut any pitch of thread by changing its turning velocity, relatively to the work, through a gear reduction. The various gears used to change the speed of the lead screw are still known as “change gears.”

Maudslay's First Screw-Cutting Lathe, about 1797
Fig. 45. Maudslay's First Screw-Cutting Lathe, about 1797

 These essential features of the screw-cutting lathe, although varied in proportions and greatly improved in workmanship, remain unchanged in principle to this day. Maudslay lived until 1830; shortly before his death he built a lathe capable of turning work 12 feet in diameter and boring steam cylinders up to ten feet in diameter, which shows the remarkable development in this machine during the lifetime of one man. So important were Maudslay’s contributions that he may well be termed the father of modern machine tools. The back gears used to increase the power of the drive were invented by Richard Roberts about 1817. From 1830 onward there was little development in the essential design of the turning lathe until, about 25 years later, the turret lathe was developed, and later still the automatic turret lathe. Both of these are American in their origin.

Text and image from Joseph Wickham Roe, The Mechanical Equipment (1918), 201-202 (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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