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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EWBANK, Thomas, scientist, born in Durham County, England, 11 March. 1792: died in New York. 16 September 1870. At the age of thirteen he was apprenticed to a tin and copper smith, and about 1819 emigrated to New York, and followed the trade of a machinist, occupying at first Fulton's factory at Paulus Hook, which had remained undisturbed since the inventor's death. In 1820 he began the manufacture of metallic tubing in New York, and retired in 1836 to devote himself to literary and scientific pursuits. From 1849 till 1852 he was U. S. commissioner of patents.
As a member of the commission to examine and report upon the strength of the marbles offered for the extension of the National capitol, he suggested the employment of woolen instead of the plates of lead usually placed between the stones, and established the fact that lead caused the stones to give way at half the pressure they would sustain without it, and that consequently in all previous trials there had been an under valuation of the power of resistance to pressure in building stones.
He was one of the founders of the American ethnological society. He published "Descriptive and Historical Account of Hydraulic and other Machines, Ancient and Modern" (New York, 1842; 15th ed., with additions, 1863); "The World a Workshop, or the Physical Relation of Man to the Earth" (1855); "Life in Brazil," describing a visit to that country in 1845'6, with an appendix on a collection of American antiquities (1857); "Thoughts on Matter and Force" (1858); "Reminiscences in the Patent Office " (1859); and a variety of miscellaneous essays on the philosophy and history of inventions, which appeared chiefly in the "Transactions of the Franklin Institute." His "Experiments on Marine Propulsion, or the Virtue of Form in Propelling Blades," was reprinted in Europe. In 1860 he published an essay that he had read before the Ethnological society, entitled "Inorganic Forces Ordained to Supersede Human Slavery."
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