The correspondence is composed of: a letter of Nasmyth to the Duc du Roussillon about astronomical papers, cuneiform script etc, 1855; and, a letter to Haigh Foundry Co., about the method of working the hammer, 1845.
Letters of James Nasmyth (1808-1890)
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- ReferenceGB 237 Coll-447
- Dates of Creation1845-1855
- Language of MaterialEnglish.
- Physical Description2 letters
- LocationGen.1732 Nasmyth; Dc.4.101-103 Nasmyth
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
James Nasmyth, the inventor of the steam hammer, was born at York Place, Edinburgh, on 19 August 1808. He was educated privately and, for a time, at the Royal High School. He was taught drawing by his father and he became skilled at handling tools. He made a small steam-engine and made models of steam-engines to be used for illustrative purposes by mechanics institutes. In 1821 he became a student and his model-making business supported him in his studies. Nasmyth was commissioned to build a steam-carriage and in 1827-1828 it was tried out on roads in and around Edinburgh. In 1829 he went to London - to Lambeth - to work for the engineers Henry Maudslay (inventor of the metal lathe) and Joshua Field, and stayed there until 1831. While in the employment of Maudslay he invented the nut-shaping machine. He returned to Edinburgh and made tools and machines before setting up in business in Manchester, laying the foundations of what became Bridgewater Foundry. His steam-hammer came about in 1839 in association with his work for the new steamship 'Great Britain' under construction at Bristol. Nasmyth also suggested the use of a submerged chain for towing boats on rivers and canals, and contrived a hydraulic punching-machine capable of making a hole in a block of iron five inches thick. He was also interested in astronomy and in 1827 constructed a small reflecting telescope. James Nasmyth died in South Kensington, London, on 7 May 1890.
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Letter to Haigh Foundry, noted as acquired March 1966, but note subsequently crossed out, Accession no. E66.13. Letter to Roussillon, purchased June 1968, Accession no. E68.21.
The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 14. Myllar-Owen. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1909.
Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.
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