Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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READ, Nathan, inventor, born in Warren, Massachusetts, 2 July, 1759; died near Belfast, Maine, 20 January, 1849. He was graduated at Harvard in 1781, and continued there as tutor for four years. In 1788 he began experimenting with a view of utilizing the steam-engine for propelling boats and carriages, by devising lighter and more compact machinery than that in common use. He invented as a substitute for the great working-beam the cross-head running in guides with a connecting-rod to communicate the motion, similar to that adopted by Robert Fulton in his "Car of Neptune." The " new invented cylinder," as he calls it, to which this working-frame was attached, was a double-acting cylinder. To render the boiler more portable, Read invented the multitubular form, which was patented with the cylinder, chain-wheel, and other appliances. This boiler was either horizontal or upright, cylindrical, and contained the furnace within itself. A double cylinder formed a water-jacket, connecting with a water and steam-chamber above, and a narrow water-chamber below. Numerous small, straight tubes parallel to the axis of the boiler, and about three quarters its length, connected these chambers. He also invented another form of boiler, in which the fire passed through small spiral tubes on the principle of tile present locomotive-boiler, an arrangement that and the advantage of consuming the smoke. In addition he had several other forms with numerous apartments, to which the water was to be gradually admitted as fast as it was evaporated. As a means of communicating motion to his steamboat, he first tried to use paddle-wheels; but, as these had been used before, he substituted a chitin-wheel of his own invention. He planned a steam-carriage, which, with his tubular boiler, he said could move at the rate of five miles an hour, with a load of fifty tons. In 1796 he established the Salem iron-foundry, where he manufactured anchors, chain-cables, and similar articles, and invented a machine theft was patented in January, 1798, for cutting and heading nails at one operation. He also invented a method of equalizing the action of windmills by accumulating the force of the wind by winding up a weight; a plan for using the force of the tide by means of reservoirs, alternately filled and emptied in such a way as to produce a constant stream; different forms of pumping-engines and thrashing-machines; and a plan for using the expansion and contraction of metals, multiplied by levers, for winding up clocks and other purposes. He was elected to congress as a Federalist in 1800, and served till 3 March, 1803. He removed to the vicinity of Belfast, Maine, in 1807, where he cultivated a large tract of land, and was appointed a judge of the court of common pleas. In 1787 he received the honorary degree of A. M. from Dartmouth, and he was a member of the American academy of arts and sciences. Mr. Read was the first petitioner for a patent before the patent law was enacted. See " Nathan Read: His Invention of the Multitubular Boiler and Portable High-Pressure Engine," by his nephew, David Read (New York, 1870).
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