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BOYDEN, Seth, inventor, born in
Foxborough, Massachusetts, 17 November, 1788; died in Middleville, New Jersey,
31 March, 1870. His boyhood was spent in aiding his father in farm work, or in
attending the common school. Such leisure as he could obtain was devoted to the
blacksmith's shop, and at the age of twenty-one years he engaged in
manufacturing nails and cutting files with improved machines of his own
construction. He then improved the machine originally devised by his father for
leather splitting, which he adapted to the splitting of sheepskins and thin
leather for bookbinders' use.
About 1813, with his brother, he established a
leather-splitting business in Newark, and in 1816 he still further improved his
nail machine. He then experimented on the manufacture of patent leather, and in
1819 produced a superior article, which he manufactured and sold until 1831.
Meanwhile he had experimented in the production of malleable iron castings, and,
succeeding in that, he engaged in their manufacture from 1831 till 1835. During
the latter year he became interested in the manufacture of steam engines.
Fitting up a shop for him, he introduced the cast-iron proem or bed used in
stationary steam engines, and substituted the straight axle in place of the
crank in locomotives. His most important invention was the cut-off in place of
the throttle-valve, and he connected the same with the governor.
In 1849 he closed out his business and sailed for California,
but after two years, unsuccessful in gaining a fortune, he returned east, and
began experimenting in agriculture. He succeeded in raising new varieties of
strawberries of a size and quality hitherto unequalled. The principal invention
of his later .years was a "hat-body doming machine," which is
now extensively used. Other inventions have been attributed to him, but they
failed of commercial success. As with many inventors, the just compensation of
his labors was secured by others, and his life was laborious to the end.
His brother, Uriah Atherton Boyden, inventor, was born in
Foxborough, Massachusetts, 17 February, 1804; died in Boston, 17 October, 1879.
In early life he worked at a blacksmith's forge, and acquired considerable
mechanical skill and a thorough knowledge of materials. Later. he became an
engineer, and was employed in the construction of a railroad from Boston to
Nashua. He then turned his attention to hydraulic engineering, and was employed
in Lowell and in Manchester, where he found time to make a comprehensive study
of the theory of the turbine water wheel. Mr. Boyden succeeded in improving the
construction of turbines so that 95 per cent. of the total power of the water
expended was utilized, thereby gaining fully 20 per cent. In 1850 he settled in
Boston and devoted himself thenceforward to the study of physics and chemistry.
He gave $1,000 to the Boyden library of Foxborough, where he also established
the soldiers' memorial building. in 1874 he placed $1,000 with the Franklin
Institute, to be awarded to any resident of North America who should determine
by experiment whether all rays of light and other physical rays were or were not
transmitted with the same velocity. The " Foxborough Official Centennial
Record" (1878) contains a full account of his life and inventions.