Machinery for boring cannons developed by John Wilkinson, 1775.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
One of two engraved plates by Wilson Lowry from 'Rees's Cyclopaedia' of 1808. It illustrates the methods and equipment developed and patented in 1774 by John Wilkinson (1728-1808) that were used to bore holes in solid cast iron. Here they are shown being used to bore the central hole in cannon barrels. This not only increased the accuracy of the guns but also made them safer to use. Wilkinson perfected these methods at his ironworks in Bersham, near Wrexham in Wales, but cannon were not produced there. The technology had an important non-military application during the Industrial Revolution as Wilkinson adapted his invention and went into partnership with Boulton and Watt, manufacturing cylinders for their steam engines.