Inventors and Inventions of the Industrial Revolution

Inventors and Inventions

Inventors were the people who came up with the ideas that sparked the Industrial Revolution. They tested ideas and prototypes and came up with methods and machines.  An invention could transform an industry.  This page briefly describes how a number of these inventions that formed the Industrial World.

The Spinning Jenny

The Spinning Jenny was a machine that could spin threads of wool. It was invented by James Hargreaves in 1770 and initially could spin 8 threads at once. Hargreaves developed this machine to the extent that it could spin 120 threads at any one time. This invention were small enough to fit into cottages and rapidly increased production. By hand a person can only spin one thread at a time.

Spinning Jenny

The Water Frame

Inventor, Richard Arkwright patented the Water Frame in 1769. It had been designed by Thomas Highs on his behalf. The Water Frame was a large wheel that was turned by running water. This was then harnessed to turn cogs inside a factory. This then made the machinery work. This invention led to the building of a number of factories and is regarded by some as being the catalyst of the Industrial Revolution.

Water Frame typical of those used towards the beginning of the Industrial Revolution

The Steam Engine

The first steam powered devices were pumps. The first practical one being invented by Thomas Newcomen. This steam powered pump was used to not only pump water from mines but also to blow air into furnaces, and for pumping drinking water into towns.

James Watt’s development of the steam engine led to a large number of further developments. Using steam to create energy meant that this new form of powering a machine could be used anywhere, rather than just next to a stream/ river as with the Water Frame. The steam engine is best associated with the invention of trains but also was used to power machinery in factories, to power lifts in mines and for many other purposes.

Diagram showing the components of James Watt's Steam Pumping Engine. Industrial Revolution Invention

The Locomotive (Train)

In 1801 Richard Trevithick developed a steam powered carriage that carried passengers on roads. He developed his invention further and in 1804 created the first locomotive to run on rails (ie the first train). He then demonstrated an updated version of his locomotive in London in 1808.

Trevithicks’ ideas were developed by the George Stephenson. Stephenson was an engineer in the mining industry and had responsibility for the steam engines that pulled wagons up from the pit face. He rapidly developed these engines and built a locomotive in 1814. He then was appointed chief engineer of the first ‘railway’ between Stockton and Darlington and later built the famous ‘Rocket’ which ran on the Manchester to Liverpool line which opened in 1830.

The inventions of this period had a huge impact on society. Large numbers of homes in the industrial revolution had been a place of work. ‘Cottage Industries’such as textiles found themselves transformed. Factories and mills replaced this type of work. This led to protests such as the Luddites and migration.

Links: British HistoryBefore the Industrial RevolutionIndustrial RevolutionFamous FactoriesWomen and Children during the Industrial Revolution

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Working ConditionsDisease in the Industrial RevolutionChartists and the Peoples Charter
LudditesSwing RiotsRebecca Riots
Protests, Riots and Conspiracies of the Industrial Age