Richard Roberts, Welsh inventor, mid-19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Richard Roberts (1789-1864) is best known for having improved upon or invented machine tools, including one of the first metal-planing machines. He founded his own firm manufacturing railway locomotives and, in 1825, he invented the self-acting spinning mule, which could spin the finest or coarsest, hard or soft twisted yarns from either long or short fibres. The spinning mule produced better yarn than any other machine and kept its place in the textile industry right up to the 1950s.