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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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George Henry Corliss

CORLISS, George Henry, inventor, born in Easton, New York, 2 June, 1817 : died in Providence, Rhode Island, 21 February, 1888. In 1825 his father, a physician, moved to Greenwich, New York, where young Corliss attended school. After several years as general clerk in a cotton-factory, he spent three years in Castletan academy, Vermont, and in 1838 opened a country store in Greenwich. He first showed mechanical skill in temporarily rebuilding a bridge that had been washed away by a freshet, after it had been decided that such a structure was impracticable. He afterward constructed a machine for stitching leather, before the invention of the original Howe sewing-machine. He moved to Providence, Rhode Island, in 184:4, and in 1846 began to develop improvements in steam-engines, 1"or which he received letters-patent on 10 March, 1849. By these improvements uniformity of motion was secured by the method of connecting the governor with the cutoff. The governor had previously been made to do the work of moving the throttle-valve, the result being an imperfect response and a great loss of power. In the Corliss engine the governor does no work, but simply indicates to the valves the work to be done. This arrangement also prevents waste of steam, and renders the working of the engine so uniform that, if all but one of a hundred looms in a factory be suddenly stopped, that one will go on working at the same rate. It has been said that these improvements have revolutionized the construction of the steam-engine. In introducing their new engines, the inventor and manufacturers adopted the novel plan of offering to take as their pay the saving, of fuel for a given time. In one case the saving m one year is said to have amounted to $4,000. In 1856 the Corliss steam-engine comparty was incorporated, and Mr. Corliss became its president. Its works, covering many acres of ground, are at Providence, Rhode Island, and hundreds of its engines are now in use. Mr. Corliss received awards for his inventions at the exhibitions at Paris in 1867, and at Vienna in 1873, and was given the Rumford medal by the American academy of arts and sciences in 1870. In 1872 he was appointed Centennial commissioner from Rhode Island, and was one of the executive committee of seven to whom was intrusted the responsibility of the preliminary work. In January, 1875, he submitted plans for a single engine of 1,400 horse-power to move all the machinery in the exhibition. Engineers of high repute predicted that it would be noisy and troublesome, but it was completely successful, owing to the care of Mr. Corliss, who spent $100,000 upon it above the appropriation for building it. Special contrivances were necessary to compensate the expansion of the great lengths of steam-pipe and shafting, which would otherwise have been thrown out of gear by a change of temperature. The cylinders were forty inches in diameter, with ten-foot stroke; the gear-wheel was thirty feet in diameter; and the whole engine weighed 700 tons. M. Bartholdi, in his report to the French government, said that it belonged to the category of works of art, by the general beauty of its effect, and its perfect balance to the eye. Mr. Corliss invented many other ingenious devices, among which is a machine for cutting the cogs of bevel-wheels, an improved boiler, with condensing apparatus for marine-engines, and pumping-engines for water-works. He was a member of the Rhode Island legislature in 1868-'70, and was a republican presidential elector in 1876. The Institute of France gave him, in 1878, the Montyon prize for that year, the highest honor for mechanical achievements, and in February, 1886, the king of Belgium made him an "Officer of the Order of Leopold."

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