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British Industrial History

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William Newton

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William Newton (1786-1861)

1837 William Newton of 66 Charing Lane, an Engineer, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1845 '...William Newton, of the Office of Patents, Chancery-lane, in the county of Middlesex, civil engineer,...'[2]


1862 Obituary [3]

MR. WILLIAM NEWTON was born in London, in the year 1786, and he was early inducted by his father into the practice of land surveying, levelling and mechanical drawing, branches of professional employment which had been exercised by his predecessors for two centuries back, in conjunction with the manufacture of globes “at ye Globe and Sun, Chancery Lane, Fleet Street.”

At an early age Mr. Newton evinced a desire to study Archeology and Heraldry, sciences which with Astronomy he cultivated with ardour in after life, and upon which he eventually published some works; he also gave lectures on those subjects before the “City Philosophical Society,” of which Michael Faraday and other now well-known men were members. On the breaking up of that society, he joined the Society of Arts, of which he was for many years an active member.

His professional surveying engagements rendered him familiar with many out of the way and almost forgotten localities and sites of ancient buildings, and gave him a store of archaeological knowledge which many years after he embodied in a 'Map of London in the Olden Time,' a work of great merit and infinite research.

His talent as a mechanical draughtsman was early recognized by his appointment to the profitable post of draughtsman to the several offices in which the specifications of patents were recorded, and this eventually led to his becoming a Patent Agent, a professional branch which he may be said to have created, and in the exercise of which he was very successful, His specifications were remarkable for their perspicuity and conciseness-qualities which had been previously little valued.

In the year 1820 he, at the solicitation of Mr. Sherwood, the Publisher, established and became the editor of the 'London Journal of Arts and Sciences,' a work which was commenced chiefly with the object of reporting upon all inventions recorded by letters patent. The difficulties of performing the duties of editor were, from the regulations of the Enrolment Offices, very great, but for some years they were satisfactorily combatted. The annually increasing number of Patents eventually, however, made it impossible to do more than to record the titles of all the Patents, and rendered necessary an arbitrary selection of subjects for description.

In the prosecution of his business, he visited all the seats of manufacture in his own country, and became intimately acquainted with all the leading branches of British industry; some of which - as the cotton and the woollen manufactures - he explained in the lecture-rooms of London, Manchester, and elsewhere; illustrating the various processes of carding, roving, spinning, weaving, &c., by the aid of working models prepared or the purpose. At a later period he extended his tours to the foreign capitals and manufacturing districts, and he never failed to bring home some archaeological memoranda and sketches of medieval domestic architecture, which served as materials for his subsequent publications.

He introduced many valuable improvements into the manufacture of Globes, and in the projection of Maps. In the year 1830 he brought out a little volume entitled "A Familiar Introduction to the Science of Astronomy;" intended chiefly for the use of students in working problems on the globes. He also, in 1836, prepared a map of the heavens, in six sheets folio, which was edited by Sir John Lubbnck, F.R.S. He took a very active and prominent part in the first movement for the amendment of the Patent Law, which however he eventually left to be accomplished by younger men.

During the last ten years of his life Mr. Newton gradually retired from public life, and resided chiefly at Herne Bay, where he, however, took much interest in local proceedings, in which he was very useful.

As a professional man he prosecuted with credit and success an active career, and in his family circle he was beloved and esteemed, and his decease, on the tenth of July, 1861, in his seventy-sixth year, was generally regretted.

He joined the Institution of Civil Engineers as an Associate in the year 1837 ; he was a very constant attendant at the meetings, and took an active part in the discussions.


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