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Sir Richard Arkwright (1732–1792) by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1789–90 private collection; photograph © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Arkwright, Sir Richard (1732–1792), inventor of cotton-spinning machinery and cotton manufacturer, was born on 23 December 1732 at Preston, Lancashire, the sixth of the seven children of Thomas Arkwright (1691–1753), a tailor, and his wife, Ellen Hodgkinson (1693–1778). The family was rooted in ...

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Sir William Cubitt (1785–1861) by Samuel Bellin (after Sir William Boxall, exh. RA 1849) © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Cubitt, Sir William (1785–1861), civil engineer and millwright, was born at Dilham, Norfolk, the son of Joseph Cubitt, miller, and his wife, Hannah, née Lubbock. He was educated at Dilham village school, and also had access to the libraries of two local clergymen, ...

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Hargreaves, James (bap. 1721, d. 1778), inventor of the spinning jenny, was born in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, and baptized at Church Kirk on 8 January 1721. His exact birthplace is unknown, and apart from the fact that he became a hand-loom weaver, little has been discovered of his early life. His parents had one other child, ...

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John Kay (1704–178081) by unknown engraver Science & Society Picture Library

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Kay, John (1704–1780/81), inventor of textile manufacturing machinery, was born at Park Farm in the township of Walmersley in the parish of Bury, Lancashire, on 16 July 1704, the fifth son of Robert Kay (1651–1704) and his wife, Ellen, née Entwistle, of Quarlton...

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Lee, William (d. 1614/15?), inventor of the stocking frame; little is known of his life. Tradition placed his birth in Calverton in Nottinghamshire (Thoroton, 3.42), but others believed him to be a native of Sussex (Lives, ed. Walker, 2.32). The former is more likely; many ...

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R. B. Prosser

revised by Maxwell Craven and Susan Christian

Lombe, Sir Thomas (1685–1739), merchant and inventor of silk-throwing machinery, eldest son of Henry Lombe, worsted weaver, of Norwich, was born at Norwich on 5 September 1685. The father died about 1695, leaving his sons Thomas and Henry under the care of his executors, while the surviving younger son ...

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Whitworth, Sir Joseph, baronet (1803–1887), mechanical engineer and machine tool manufacturer, was born at Stockport on 21 December 1803, the son of Charles Whitworth (1782–1870) and Sarah (1780–1814), daughter of Joseph Hulse. His father was a loom framemaker in the textile industry who, when his wife died in 1814, put his three young children in the care of foster parents and took advantage of an offer to train for the Congregationalist ministry. ...