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British Industrial History

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Isaac Potter

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Isaac Potter (1690-1735).

Born in Chaddesley Corbett, Worcestershire, 18 February 1690, died 18 February 1735 in Windschacht, Schemnitz[1], which would be consistent with that of Humphrey Potter. Another source gives his birthplace as Durham[2].

Potter was recruited by Joseph Emanuel Fischer, the son of the famous architect Fischer von Erlach, to travel to Austria to construct Newcomen engines. The silver mines of the Austrian Monarchy were constrained by flooding. The waterwheels had reached their technical limits, and water supply was limited. A successful transfer of technology saved the Habsburg state from bankruptcy: the steam engine replaced waterwheels in the battle against pit water.

The first atmospheric steam engine of the Monarchy was constructed in 1721 in Königsberg bei Schemnitz in what is now Slovakia. In the following year, another was constructed at the Schwarzenberg Palace. Both engines were built by Isaac Potter and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach. Potter improved the control of the engine imported from England and from 1730 he successfully built further installations in the Slovakian coalfields. The Schwarzenberg engine fed the reservoir of a fountain.

The above information is from the Vienna Technical Museum website[3]

Potter arrived in Vienna in 1720, along with his servant Lumley and daughter and his assitant engineere Pierre Sabathery. G. J. Hollister-Short provides an interesting account of Isaac Potter's work in Slovakia, and the considerable difficulties and deliberate obstruction which he faced. [4]. Potter arrived in Konigsberg early in September 1721, expecting to complete the engine in 8 months, but the brass cylinder (30" bore, 8ft long) was not delivered until May 1722, and its quality was poor, requiring considerable quantities of lead to fill cavities, and needing more work to finish the bore. Potter got into financial difficulties. The engine was not finished until September 1722, and it was 8 years before Potter was paid for the extra 5 months work. Nevertheless he continued to build engines in the region in conjunction with von Erlach (who was clearly the designer, while Potter was the constructor).

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] German Wikipedia entry for Isaac Potter
  2. [2] '300 Jahre Karl VI. (1711–1740). Spuren der Herrschaft des letzten Habsburgers', hrsg. von der Generaldirektion des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs. In German, large pdf
  3. [3] Technisches Museum Wien (Vienna Technical Museum) website
  4. 'Some Aspects of Evolution and Diffusion in European Technology 1450-1750'. PhD Thesis, Graham John Hollister-Short, Imperial College, June 1976, p.294 ff. Avaialable online