Jacob Perkins, American mechanical engineer and inventor, 1825.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Lithograph by Richard Lane after a painting by Chester Harding. Jacob Perkins (1766-1849) was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, United States, where at a young age he was apprenticed to a goldsmiths. At the age of 15 he managed his own business and invented a method of plating shoe-buckles. In 1818 he moved to England and obtained a contract for supplying the Bank of Ireland with plates. It was around this time that he made his famous steel-plate invention. He substituted steel plates for the copper ones used in the engraving process, thus enabling more complicated patterns to be used on bank notes and making counterfeiting more difficult. Perkins also made improvements to guns and steam engines and invented an early refrigerator.