"Iron is not
only the soul of every other manufacture, but the mainspring
perhaps of civilized society."
Author offers the following take as a continuation,
in a more generally accessible form, of the Series of Memoirs of
Industrial Men introduced in his Lives of the Engineers.
preparing that work he frequently came across the tracks of
celebrated inventors, mechanics, and iron-workers - the
founders, in a great measure, of the modern industry of
Britain - whose labours seemed to him well worthy of being traced
out and placed on record, and the more so as their lives
presented many points of curious and original interest.
been encouraged to prosecute the subject by offers of assistance
from some of the most eminent living mechanical engineers, he is
now enabled to present the following further series of memoirs
to the public. Without exaggerating the importance
of this class of biography, it may at least be averred that it
has not yet received its due share of attention.
commemorating the labours and honouring the names of those who
have striven to elevate man above the material and mechanical,
the labours of the important industrial class to whom society
owes so much of its comfort and well-being are also entitled to
Without derogating from the biographic claims of
those who minister to intellect and taste, those who minister to
utility need not be overlooked.
When a Frenchman was praising to
Sir John Sinclair the artist who invented ruffles, the Baronet
shrewdly remarked that
some merit was also due to the man who added the shirt. A distinguished living mechanic
thus expresses himself to the Author on this point: "Kings,
warriors, and statesmen have heretofore monopolized not only the
pages of history, but almost those of biography.
niche ought to be found for the Mechanic, without whose skill
and labour society, as it is, could not exist. I do not begrudge
destructive heroes their fame, but the constructive ones ought
not to be forgotten; and there is a heroism of skill and toil
belonging to the latter class, worthy of as grateful
record, less perilous and romantic, it may be, than that of the
other, but not less full of the results of human energy,
bravery, and character.
The lot of labour is indeed often a dull
one; and it is doing a public service to endeavour to lighten it
up by records of the struggles and triumphs of our more
illustrious workers, and the results of their labours in the
cause of human advancement."