James Brindley (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: The first modern English canal engineer, Brindley designed and engineered the canal network necessary for the industrialization of the Midlands and therefore essential to eighteenth century England’s industrial revolution.
James Brindley was born in 1716 in Turnstead, then a remote section of Derby, England, an area populated by small tenant farmers, transient hawkers, and squatters. Brindley’s father made an indifferent living on a small leasehold, and impoverishment seems to have been the family’s general circumstance. As the eldest, James received some instruction from his mother. Nevertheless, he remained barely literate throughout life, although there is scant evidence that this was a handicap to him. Until he was seventeen, Brindley worked as a laborer but displayed a keen interest in the operations of waterwheels, cog wheels, drum wheels, and related machinery, frequently making models of them.
In 1733, when he was seventeen, Brindley entered a seven-year apprenticeship to a millwright near Macclesfield, the most prominent town in his native district. Doubtless, Brindley carefully chose his craft: In the England of his day, there were no provisions for the formal training of professional engineers, and millwrights, who were obliged to design, construct, and maintain the varieties of machinery and power sources on which their livelihoods depended, afforded the most...
(The entire section is 1748 words.)
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