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British Industrial History

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Isaac Babbitt

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Isaac Babbitt (born 26 July 1799 in Taunton, Massachusetts, died 26 May 1862 in Somerville, Massachusetts) was an American inventor.[1]

Babbitt gave his name to a low-friction tin-based alloy, Babbitt metal, still used extensively in engine bearings. More widely known in the UK as white metal.

'Babbitt's alloy had eight parts regulus of antimony (regulus means the pure, refined metal), four parts copper and ninety-six parts of tin' (sic)[2] although many other soft alloys used for lining bearings came to be known by this name. However, see below.

1904 'BABBITT METAL. Although Babbitt metal in one of the most common anti-friction metals in use at the present time, but few users of this metal are aware that Isaac Babbitt, whose name it bears, was the inventor and patentee of the method of lining boxes with soft metal rather than of any particular alloy of the metal itself. In the original patent, granted to Isaac Babbitt, of Boston, Mass., in July, 1839, he claims to have invented a new and improved mode of making boxes in which gudgeons or journals are to run. To quote from that part of his patent relating to the metal used, he says: "I prepare boxes which are to be received into housing or plummer blocks in the ordinary way of forming such boxes; making them of any kind of metal or metallic compound which has sufficient strength and which is capable of being lined. The inner parts of these boxes are to be lined with any of the harder kinds of composition known under the names Britannia metal or pewter, of which block tin is the basis. An excellent compound for this I have prepared by taking fifty parts of tin, five of antimony, and one of copper. But I do not intend to confine myself to this particular composition." No claim whatever is made for the composition, remarks the Scientific American, and in fact, that specified is somewhat softer than what is now known as "genuine babbitt," which is commonly composed of ninty-six parts of tin, eight parts antimony, and four parts copper. Although Babbitt's name is somewhat erroneously applied to the metal, yet, as he was the first to exploit the use of soft metals in the manner in which they are now so commonly employed, it seems but just that his memory should be perpetuated in this way.'[3]

Isaac Babbitt and William Crossman had been involved in making teapots and tableware from Britannia metal. [4].

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Wikipedia entry
  2. The Engineer 1900/03/02
  3. Derbyshire Courier, 20 September 1904
  4. [2] Gary Ash, Antique Automobile Club of America, 23 April 2016