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Ambler, Geoffrey Hill (1904–1978), inventor and air force officer, was born at 10 Kirklands Avenue, Baildon, near Bradford, Yorkshire, on 23 June 1904, the eldest child in the family of two sons and one daughter of Frederick Ambler (1873–1932), a worsted spinner and manufacturer, and his wife, ...

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Anderson, Sir John (1814–1886), inventor of ordnance manufacture machinery and arsenal manager, was born at Woodside, near Aberdeen, on 9 December 1814, the posthumous child of a local merchant, J. Anderson, and his wife, Helen Hosie. His mother remarried and his stepfather, Irvine Kempt...

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[Anon.]

revised by Alastair W. Massie

Bell, John (1746/7–1798), army officer and inventor, was born in the parish of St Cuthbert's, Carlisle, the eldest son of William Bell, hatter, of Botchergate, Carlisle. He was baptized at St Cuthbert's Church on 22 February 1747. After working in the family business, ...

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Samuel Bentham (1757–1831) by Henry Edridge, c. 1795–1800 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Bentham, Samuel (1757–1831), naval architect and inventor, was born in London on 11 January 1757, the youngest of the seven children of Jeremiah Bentham (1712–1792), an attorney, and his wife, Alicia Woodward Whitehorne (d. 1759), the eldest daughter of Thomas Grove, an ...

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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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Bickford, William (bap. 1774, d. 1834), currier and inventor of the safety fuse, was baptized in Ashburton, Devon, on 23 January 1774, the son of William and Mary Beckford. He was in business as a currier, dressing and colouring tanned leather, first rather unsuccessfully in ...

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Blacker, (Latham Valentine) Stewart (1887–1964), soldier and inventor of armaments, was born on 1 October 1887 at The Beeches, Grappenhall, near Warrington, Cheshire, the son of Major Latham Charles Miller Blacker who came of a soldiering family, and his wife, Emily Violet Mattie...

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Bolton, Sir George (d. 1806), tutor and inventor of gun-locks, was the son of David Bolton. He was schooled in military tactics and mathematics preparatory to a career in the army, but was instead appointed instructor to the royal princesses in writing, geography, and arithmetic. Being of independent means, he indulged his interest in firearms by seeking to improve the musket gun-lock, which in both military and sporting firearms was so defective that accidents were frequently caused by guns going off at half-cock in the heat of battle or when forging through dense vegetation. The self-acting and detached bolting lock that he designed was constructed by mathematical instrument makers (whom he found more obedient to his orders than the gun makers), and patented in 1795 (no. 2041). The ...

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Brodie, John Leopold [formerly Leopold Janno Braude] (1873–1945), businessman and inventor, was by his own account born in Riga (at that time in the Russian empire) on 10 June 1873, the son of a railway builder (Buffalo Courier Express, 22 August 1926...

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Cowper Phipps Coles (1819–1870) by J. Harris © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Coles, Cowper Phipps (1819–1870), naval officer and inventor of a gun turret, was born on 9 July 1819, the third son of the Revd John Coles (1787–1865) of Ditcham Park, Hampshire, rector of Silchester, and his first wife, Marianne Goodhead, née Rogers (...

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Davis, Sir Robert Henry (1870–1965), inventor of diving and breathing apparatus, was born in London on 6 June 1870, the eldest son of Robert Davis, a detective in the City of London police force. In 1882, aged eleven, Davis entered the firm of ...

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Drake, John Poad (bap. 1794, d. 1883), inventor and artist, son of Thomas Drake and his wife, Frances Poad, was born in Stoke Damerel, Devon, where he was baptized on 20 July 1794. A shipwright in the naval dockyard at Plymouth, Thomas Drake...

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Ford, Sir Edward (bap. 1605, d. 1670), royalist army officer and inventor, was born at Up Park, in the parish of Harting, Sussex, and baptized in the parish church of Harting on 22 April 1605. He was the eldest son of Sir William Ford (...

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James Burnley

revised by D. H. L. Back

Forsyth, Alexander John (1768–1843), inventor, son of James Forsyth, minister of Belhelvie in Aberdeenshire, and Isabella, daughter of Walter Syme, minister of Tullynessle, was born on 28 December 1768 in his father's manse. He attended King's College, Aberdeen, from 1782 to 1786, and in 1790 was licensed as a preacher. After his father died suddenly on 1 December 1790, a presbytery meeting held in ...

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Freeburn, James (1808–1876), army officer and inventor of shell fuses, was born in the parish of St Cuthbert's, Midlothian. At an early age he was apprenticed to a baker. At the age of seventeen he enlisted in the 7th battalion of the Royal Artillery...

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Elizabeth Bruton and Graeme J. N. Gooday

Fuller, Algernon Clement (1885–1970), army officer and inventor, was born at 5 Walm Lane, Willesden, Middlesex, on 30 March 1885, the second son of five children born to Sydney Albert Fuller (1843/4–1896) and his wife, Beatrice Mary, née Dunphy (1854–1920). His father had formerly been employed in the ...

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Gardner, William (1844/5–1887), inventor of a portable machine-gun, was a native of Toledo, Ohio, USA, who as a volunteer during the civil war rose to the rank of captain. In 1874 he designed the first portable machine-gun, but he lacked the capital to develop it and turned the prototype over to ...