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Bate, John (fl. 1626–1635), writer on mechanics, is an obscure figure; his birth and death dates, parentage, and virtually all personal details remain unknown. Bate's The Mysteries of Nature and Art (1634) is the first comprehensive illustrated English book on waterworks and hydraulic machinery. It also includes sections on drawing, painting, recipes, and folk remedies, as well as one on fireworks and incendiary devices largely derivative of earlier English and continental works on the subject. A second, greatly expanded edition in 1635 was followed by a third edition, printed in 1654, which has few changes from the second edition....

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John Albert Bentinck (1737–1775) by Mason Chamberlin, 1775 [left, with his son William Bentinck] © National Maritime Museum, London

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Bentinck, John Albert (1737–1775), naval officer and inventor of mechanical devices, was born on 29 December 1737, the second son of William, Count Bentinck (1704–1774) and Countess Charlotte Sophie of Aldenburg (1715–1800), and grandson of Hans Willem Bentinck, first earl of Portland. His parents separated when he was about a year old and he never knew his mother. He went to sea at the age of fourteen in the ...

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Bill, Robert (1754–1827), mechanic and inventor, was the son of William Bill and Mary, née Walton. Robert's father and uncle (Francis) had married coheirs Mary and Dorothy, daughters of William Hall Walton. The Bills of Farley Hall near Cheadle were an old ...

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Budding, Edwin Beard (1796–1846), engineer and inventor, was born on 25 August 1796 and baptized at St Michael's, Eastington and Alkerton, Gloucestershire, on 10 November 1796, the son of Charles Brain Budding (bap. 1755), and his wife, Mary Beard. Nothing is known of ...

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Clarke, George Thomas Smith- (1884–1960), automobile and medical engineer, was born at Lower Park, Bewdley, Worcestershire, on 23 December 1884, the eldest of seven children (one of whom was adopted) of Henry Clarke (1850–1897), brass finisher and engineer, who in 1871 married Harriet (...

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Cumming, Alexander (1731/2–1814), watchmaker and mechanician, is said by most sources to have been born in Edinburgh, although there is no trace of his baptism in the parish registers. However, according to the first Scottish Statistical Account (vol. 21, 1799), discovered by Mary Cosh...

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Drebbel, Cornelis (1572–1633), inventor and mechanical engineer, was born in Alkmaar in the Netherlands, the son of Jacob Janszoon Drebbel (d. 1591). His father, whose family name was originally Dremmel, was a well-to-do burgher of Alkmaar, a town in the province of ...

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Cornelis Drebbel (1572–1633) by unknown engraver, pubd 1628 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Earnshaw, Lawrence (1707?–1767), mechanic and clockmaker, was born at Mottram in Longendale, Cheshire, the son of a weaver, probably John Earnshaw (b. 1653?), who married Lidia Johnson in 1693. After a short training with his father and four years apprenticed to a brother as a tailor, he served a seven-year apprenticeship to ...