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British Industrial History

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John Wright (1808-1844)

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John Wright (1808–1844) was a surgeon from Birmingham, who invented a process of electroplating involving potassium cyanide. The process was patented in 1840 by Wright's associate George Richards Elkington.

1808 Born at the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

Apprenticed to a Dr Spearman in Rotherham, Yorkshire and completed his medical training in Edinburgh, Paris and London.

1833 Moved to the Bordesley district of Birmingham, in the centre of the metal working industry, where he experimented with electricity in his spare time. After reading an article by Carl Wilhelm Scheele on the behaviour of the cyanides of gold and silver in a solution of potassium cyanide he devised an experiment to test such a solution as an electrolyte. The results were promising with a good coating of gold or silver being achievable.

He contacted the plating firm of Elkington and Co who paid him £300 for the rights to patent the procedure plus a further £500 when the patent (British Patent 8447) was approved in 1840. The process became widely used in preference to the dangerous techniques previously used and Wright benefited from a steady royalty income. Mr. Wright received a royalty of one shilling for every ounce of silver deposited, but after his death an annuity was paid to his widow instead of the royalty.

1835 Married Mary Ann Rollason in Sheldon[1]

1844 Died from the effects of falling from his carriage; buried in Birmingham, St Mary[2]

His widow came to live in the neighbourhood of Sheffield and later became a widow for the second time, her husband dying a millionaire.[3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Parish records
  2. BMD
  3. Samuel Coulson, history of electro-plating